The blood brain barrier (BBB) is designed to protect the central nervous system from infection and regulate the microenvironment of the brain. However, the brain has a high demand for energy and nutrients. Therefore, multiple mechanisms exist to mediate the uptake of endogenous substances. Such substances may cross the BBB by passive diffusion in a non-energy dependent manner or via energy dependent processes which can include receptor-mediated transport and adsorptive-mediated transcytosis. Additionally, numerous viral infections are known to cross the BBB, one of which is SARS-CoV-2.
These transport systems can be exploited to design new and exciting drug delivery technologies that can carry nucleic acid therapeutics (mRNA, ASO, DNA, miRs). The goal of this PhD is to design and develop a state-of-the-art non-viral delivery system that is based upon natural amino acids to cross the BBB. There is an unmet need to develop targeted delivery systems especially for the repeated application of gene therapeutics.
This project is sponsored by industry with the goal of developing a delivery platform for nanotherapeutics. This projects forms part of an exciting collaborative partnership between Professor McCarthy, a nucleic acids drug delivery expert and CEO of Phion Therapeutics and Prof Nicholas Dunne, a materials engineer and expert in polymeric systems from Dublin City University. The student will benefit from training in both an academic and industry setting including training and placements in pHion Therapeutics. The project workplan encompasses a broad range of molecular biology, physiochemical, material testing, in vitro and in vivo techniques providing the student with an excellent training environment and key transferable skills for future development.