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Mission of the WADDP

We hereby differentiate the stature of the phrase “Wits Advanced Drug Delivery Platform” from “Drug Delivery" which is based on key innovations on numerous levels. If we look at the basic definition of the term Drug Delivery, it describes the method or process of administering a pharmaceutical compound to achieve a therapeutic effect in humans or animals. This term is rather contextually broad and certainly does not capture the essence of innovation related to the cutting-edge R&D our team undertakes in designing drug delivery technologies. Drug delivery technologies are patent protected formulation technologies that modify drug release profiles as well as drug absorption, distribution and elimination from the body for the benefit of improving product efficacy, safety and patient convenience and compliance. The most common routes of drug administration include the preferred non-invasive oral, topical, transmucosal (nasal, buccal/sublingual, vaginal, ocular and rectal) and inhalation routes. Traditional efforts in the area of drug delivery R&D include the development of targeted delivery in which the drug is only active in the target area of the body (for example, in cancerous tissues) and sustained release formulations in which the drug is released over a period of time in a controlled manner from a formulation.

This paradigm has now shifted and our research focuses on much more ‘advanced’ solutions for drug delivery technology by designing active/passive programmable innovative polymeric platforms that will positively impact the global pharmaceutical industry challenges in every therapeutic category. Our research has come a long way from just simple pharmaceutical formulation or reformulation and offers unrivalled opportunities to combat diseases more effectively than ever before. The advancement is based on the fact that the drug delivery technologies we develop can be manipulated in multiple dimensions such as morphology, structure, size, geometry and mechanistic function. This is not possible with traditional drug delivery technology. This ultimately gives us the ‘advanced’ edge.

It is important to note that the advances in drug delivery technologies have gone hand in hand with the new era of drug discovery and development. For example our molecularly targeted based therapies, which utilize pseudo-peptides to stabilize large active protein molecules will provide novel treatments for diseases such as cancer, infectious diseases and metabolic disorders to name but a few. Such advances offer new capabilities to revive the market potential for these drug products by providing new solutions to old problems. Our development efforts at the Wits Advanced Drug Delivery Platform (WADDP) takes the definition of Drug Delivery several steps further by providing advanced/intelligent drug delivery technology solutions to maximize the delivery of various classes of drug molecules to the human body in a manner to obtain the highest efficacy from the drug/s. These efforts go beyond what may be achievable with traditional drug delivery systems. We aim to provide the pharmaceutical industry and companies within the biotechnology sector with the delivery systems for their existing drugs and new molecules that are difficult or impossible to deliver as conventional drug delivery systems, thereby offering more effective healthcare solutions

The crux of our rationalisation identifying us as an advanced drug delivery platform lies in the fact that we do not develop conventional drug delivery systems. We realise that newer drugs and other molecules have numerous attractive properties and are continuously under development, with many currently in advanced stages of clinical testing. Unfortunately, some are associated with disadvantages such as short in vivo half lives, poor physicochemical stability and low bioavailability. These result in frequent administration that may not only limit the drugs clinical use, but is also costly, painful, and inconvenient, leading to poor patient compliance and erratic drug concentrations in the blood.

These challenges are circumvented by our research that employs futuristic techniques that range from macroscopic monolithic devices for oral drug delivery in the form of ultra-fast as well as extended release wafers, multilayered multidisc tablets with customised zero-order release kinetics, chronotherapeutic delivery, gastroretentive systems with adhesive as well as floating ability, through microscopic and nanoscopic devices for implantations into the eye, brain, spinal cord and vagina to targeted drug delivery such as cancer targeting. The technologies are developed using custom synthesized novel polymers, co-polymers, interpolymeric electrolyte complexes with pH-, thermo-, enzyme- and electro-responsive properties. In comparison to traditional tablets, microspheres and nanoparticles, we develop wafers, multilayered-multi-disc systems, electrospun nanofibres, memblets, caplets, device-within-device systems, injectable implants, biodegradable scaffolds, cryogels, nanobubbles, antibodies coated systems, hydraulic mechanism systems and even biosensors.

In addition we are extensively involved in merging the concept of in silico techniques to design drug delivery technologies that can be passively pre-programmed utilizing a suite of highly advanced and sophisticated computing algorithms to generate, optimize and simulate the prospective advanced drug delivery modules. Techniques such as Design of Experiments, Artificial Neural Networks, Molecular Static and Dynamic simulations, Pharmacokinetic Modeling Analysis and Image Processing Analysis are performed to significantly reduce experimental time and to elucidate the mechanism underlying the performance of the devices. This is a first for drug delivery research. State-of-the-art characterization techniques are also utilized to determine the physicochemical and physicomechanical properties of the engineered devices using ATR-FTIR-coupled TGA, TMDSC, nanoTensile Analysis, Bench-Top Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Cell-Vizio analysis and in vivo Ultrasound Analysis. For example, our MRI imaging technology we utilize for implantable drug delivery devices is only available at four or five other institutions worldwide. Our research is strategically undertaken in collaboration with basic science researchers spanning across diverse disciplines, including biologists, chemists, physicists, chemical engineers, immunologists, neurosurgeons, neurologists, ophthalmologists, obstetricians, gynaecological oncologists as well as a host of other specialist clinicians that support the rationale for design highly innovative drug delivery technology solutions beyond what has been accomplished thus far.

We aim to supply exceptionally viable and efficient products to the pharmaceutical industry by adopting a multimodal approach, with more than one in-built drug delivery mechanism working in tandem as the final delivery device to achieve an optimally enhanced drug bioavailability. It is the technology behind the proposed drug delivery platforms that differentiates our technologies from our competitors (which generally only focus on a single mode of drug delivery) and that our customer, biotechnological and pharmaceutical companies, desire. International and national patents have been, or are being, filed to protect the latest suite of inventions in addition to the current mature technologies that are earmarked for the commercialization phase.This can only be realized with advanced technologies developed by a vibrant research team where we thrive on the use of specialized techniques for the design, development, characterization, and performance of our engineered devices.

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