UKZN’s Novel Drug Delivery Unit is designing and manufacturing several novel medicines to fight antibiotic resistance under the leadership of Professor Thirumala Govender with her Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr Rahul Kalhapure.
The team’s recent achievements also include, the successful filing of a patent application in the UK, winning a national competition for best research publication in Pharmaceutics, several publications on effective medicines developed in good quality journals, and purchasing an equipment which is the first one in Africa.
Govender and her team at UKZN including Dr Chunderika Mocktar, Dr Sanil Singh, Dr Sanjeev Rambharose, Professor Soliman and several postgraduate students and postdoctoral fellows are focusing on the development of innovative pharmaceutical formulation materials and nano drug delivery systems as solutions to overcome challenges with current dosage forms (such as tablets and capsules) in which antibiotics are administered to patients. She indicated that even if new drugs are developed, their efficacy in the patient can be affected if they are continue to be administered in these conventional dosage forms. This area is therefore a major research area in pharmaceutical companies.
‘Various types of advanced and new generation nano drug delivery systems such as nano micelles, nanoplexes, polymersomes etc. with superior materials and architectural designs have been prepared by our team and have shown superior activity against sensitive and resistant bacteria,’ explained Govender.
‘In one particular study we have just completed a proof-of-concept study where we designed and synthesised a novel type of lipid which is a material capable of forming “intelligent” nanoparticles to not only target the infection site but also to release encapsulated antibiotic drug and bind to bacteria in response to a specific change in body conditions at infection sites’ She continued.
The team’s study has been accepted for publication in Nanomedicine: Nanotechnology, Biology and Medicine, a leading international journal in drug delivery.
‘This nanoantibiotic medicine shows potential to target and release an antibiotic specifically at an infection site, maintain effective concentrations for extended time, and decreases exposure to other healthy sites and beneficial bacteria in the body,’ said Govender.
She said a medicine that can administer a lower dose but expose bacteria to higher concentrations for longer exposure times, can improve killing of resistant bacteria, decrease resistance development, decrease side effects and administration frequency and improve patient compliance.
This can lead to improved treatment of various diseases associated with bacterial infections and saving of patient lives.
The project is being undertaken together with several national and international collaborators: University of Witwatersrand, Tohoku University (Japan), University of Iowa (USA), Mumbai Institute of Technology (India) and Concordia University (Canada)).
It is funded by Medical Research Council of South Africa, South African National Research Foundation, UKZN Nanotechnology Platform and UKZN’s College of Health Sciences.
Govender completed a PhD in Nanotechnology at University of Nottingham (UK). She is currently Professor of Pharmacy in the Discipline of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Head of the Drug Delivery Research Unit and Head of the NanoHealth Pillar of the UKZN Nanotechnology Platform at UKZN. In recognition of her scientific expertise in pharmaceutical technology, Govender is currently appointed as an Expert Evaluator on the Medicines Control Council of South Africa for the quality evaluation of new medicines for regulatory approval. She is also a past Vice Chair of the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences of South Africa.