Enabling topical drug delivery of biologics across skin

Grantee: Niclas Roxhed, Associate Professor, KTH Royal Institute of Technology

Amount: DKK 4,031,088

Grant category: Research Grants in open competition

Year: 2024

Geography: Sweden

Niclas Roxhed’s technology-focused project aims to investigate the potential of spiked microspheres as vehicles for large-molecular drug delivery into skin to treat diseases.

Modern biologic drugs have transformed the way we treat many diseases. However, these drug molecules are too large to pass biologic barriers and therefore need to be injected. For skin diseases, the outermost skin layer effectively prevents larger molecules from entering the skin.

To address this problem, Niclas Roxhed and his team have tailor-made ultra-sharp spiked microspheres that painlessly penetrate only the outermost skin layer and allow delivery of large molecules into skin. In this project, they will use these spiked microspheres in an atopic dermatitis model to topically deliver large-molecular nucleic acids and nanocarriers to inhibit inflammatory reactions. To verify effective delivery, Niclas Roxhed and his team will quantify inflammatory markers in skin using micro-sampling and proteomics profiling.

The results could form the basis for highly effective delivery of biopharmaceuticals as topical creams and potentially revolutionize treatment strategies in skin disease.

Deciphering the cellular and molecular role of mitophagy in wound healing

Grantee: Jakob Wikstrom, Associate Professor, Karolinska Institutet

Amount: DKK 4,302,900

Grant category: Research Grants in open competition

Year: 2024

Geography: Sweden

Jakob Wikstrom’s project aims to improve the understanding of mitophagy, a process where damaged and aged mitochondria are removed and recycled intracellularly, in relation to wound healing.

In the event of abnormal wound healing, chronic wounds may form and thereby place a large burden on healthcare systems. Importantly, treatment options remain limited owing to the complex nature of chronic wound pathogenesis, meaning alternative avenues need to be explored in the quest to develop novel therapies.

One avenue that Jakob Wikstrom and his team aim to pursue is that of targeting mitochondria and in particular, the quality-control process of mitophagy. Mitochondria play vital roles required for efficient wound healing, most notably in regulating metabolism. However, the role of mitophagy in wound healing is poorly understood, and only a few studies have studied it in human tissue.

Interestingly, preliminary data from human tissue and primary human cell culture for this project shows that mitophagy plays an important role in the early- and mid-wound healing stages, and that mitophagy induction aids in fibroblast and keratinocyte migration. However, the precise mechanisms of how mitophagy is required in these cell types during wound healing is yet to be elucidated.

Jakob Wikstrom and his team aim to evaluate the mechanistic role of mitophagy in wound healing through a variety of experiments on relevant human cell types, investigating metabolism, chronic inflammation, and gene expression, as well as comprehensively disseminating the impact of mitophagy on wound healing in mouse models.

Successful implementation of this project could provide novel ideas for and facilitate the development of future mitochondria-targeted wound treatments.