Hepatitis C virus (HCV, discovered in 1989) is responsible for the most widespread viral infectious disease affecting over 200 million people worldwide. To date, research efforts have failed to produce effective vaccines against this virus, and controlling the viral infection presents the only option available for affected patients. However, even the most successful drug, e.g. Ribavirin (RBV), a standard medication against HCV, is highly toxic and the treatment is associated with severe side effects. Surprisingly, polymer therapeutics, a biomedical engineering field aiming to facilitate the targeted delivery of drugs, remains largely unexplored for the treatment of HCV.
We are currently investigating polymer-drug conjugates as an approach to decrease the toxic side-effects routinely encountered in current HCV treatment. By using RAFT controlled polymerization we are able to achieve close control over MW, drug loading, as well as the incorporation of hepatic targeting agents into a number of well-studied low-fouling polymers.
Current research activities are directed at analyzing this polymer library in regard to its biological activity in an in vitro HCV model, as well as studying different polymer-drug linkages to optimize drug release under clinically relevant conditions.
Our first publication outlining our recent progress in this field has just been published in Chemical Communications.
This research direction is supported by Sapere Aude Starting Grant from the Danish Council for Independent Research, Technology and Production Sciences, Denmark.