Rewriting Life

Smarter Drugs

Polymerix promises a better way to get drugs to where they’re needed in the body.

If you could watch what happens to a typical drug in your body, you’d probably see its ingredients spread quickly, even to places where they are not needed. The drug doesn’t always arrive at the right place at the right time or stick around long enough to have its full benefit. So drug developers often combine medicines with other compounds to maximize benefits and minimize side effects. Indeed, researchers are always looking for ways to more precisely control the timing, targeting, and dosage of drugs.

A Rutgers University startup, Polymerix, has a novel approach that could boost the potency of some drugs and provide for their steadier release over time. Whereas other drug delivery methods employ polymers-long molecular chains with carbon backbones-that degrade slowly to help control drug release in the body, Polymerix forms similar chains out of the drug molecules themselves. The technology delivers drugs more efficiently and at higher concentrations than conventional polymer carriers, says Kathryn Uhrich, a Rutgers chemistry professor and Polymerix’s scientific founder. The company’s drug formulations can be used in injectable or implantable forms or even as pills. For now, however, Polymerix is developing anti-inflammatory drug coatings for medical devices.

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