AZoNano speaks to Dr. Zahra Rattray about the impact of the new Multiscale Metrology Suite (MMS) on the development of the field of nanomedicine. Continue reading for an insight into how this new, multidisciplinary facility is at the forefront of utilizing nanotechnology for pharmaceutical research.
Please could you introduce yourself and tell us what inspired your career into the role of nanotechnology within health?
My name is Zahra Rattray, and I am a Chancellor’s Research Fellow in Translational Pharmaceutics at the University of Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences. What inspired me to pursue a career in nanotechnology for health was working within the drug discovery sector and seeing how many promising candidate compounds would fail at later development stages due to formulation challenges or their safety profile.
Using nanotechnology, we could salvage the therapeutic potential of these compounds and ultimately develop life-saving drugs. Since then, I have become very interested in researching the biological performance of nanotechnology drugs or developing new strategies such as targeting ligands to enable drug delivery.
How did you begin your involvement with the nanotechnology sector?
My involvement started during graduate school, where I studied endogenous ligands such as transferrin with a view to harnessing their potential for drug delivery. Following this, I have been involved in pharmaceutical industry pipeline projects developing nanomedicine products; my research team studies the development of bioanalytical pipelines to analyze nanotechnologies.
The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered immense growth in various medical diagnostic and treatment solutions. How has this strengthened the necessity of nanotechnology in health-related research?
The widespread use of mRNA lipid nanoparticle vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the need for the rapid deployment of nanotechnology for areas of unmet clinical need. The nanotechnology sector has an opportunity to use such momentum and lessons learned from the pandemic and apply this to other therapeutic areas such as oncology.
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The Multiscale Metrology Suite for Next-Generation Health Nanotechnologies will be a significant power in furthering the research and development of nanotechnology for many healthcare applications.
Which areas do you think will benefit the most from this new facility?
The Multiscale Metrology Suite will enable the comprehensive physicochemical analysis of novel nanomaterials and their interactions with biomacromolecules contained within biological fluids such as blood. Areas benefiting from this work the most will be novel nanomaterials requiring a comprehensive understanding of product parameters or the impact of the manufacturing process on product characteristics.
Using a data-driven approach, their clinical and commercial translation timelines can be accelerated through deeper product understanding.
Why is the integration of different research fields integral to nanomedicine innovation?
In addressing the translational obstacles to nanotechnology implementation in health, we can look to other disciplines for technological solutions or bringing a new perspective to solving existing challenges. The insights and perspectives a multidisciplinary approach delivers can provide transformative and disruptive solutions to some of the grand challenges we face.
A good example is how field flow fractionation (FFF) entered the arena in the 1960s with a limited range of researcher groups investing in this technology. It is only in the past few years that FFF implementation in the bio- and nanotechnology sectors entered a rapid growth phase.
Do you think the establishment of this facility will encourage the development of other multidisciplinary research institutes?
The Multiscale Metrology Suite (MMS) facility will collaborate with academics, industry, and government bodies to ensure its strategic relevance to drug discovery. The MMS will remain world-leading and competitive through incorporating new technological advancements in the analytical and nanotechnology sectors.
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What major obstacles do you believe currently limit the involvement of nanotechnology within medical and pharmaceutical research?
Some of the major obstacles nanotechnology faces is the clinical translation of these products. These obstacles can range from the unknown biological performance of new chemistries to the reproducible manufacture of nanomedicines with consistent key critical quality attributes. The more understanding we can develop about a product and process from the early development stage, the more likely the risk of late-stage pipeline attrition can be mitigated.
I believe that by using a team-based, interdisciplinary approach, we can tackle the grand challenges facing nanomedicine translation. By working across traditional discipline boundaries, we can better understand the biology being targeted, which product attributes are suitable for the biological target, and how we can control these through process design.
Nanomaterials can possess a range of characteristics that enhance their suitability for use within medical diagnostics and treatment. However, this use is reliant upon understanding their behavior within the human body.
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Could you outline the major nanomaterial characteristics that research will investigate for accurate physiochemical characterization?
The Multiscale Metrology Suite (MMS) is a unique, bespoke setup that will combine electric, centrifugal and asymmetric field-flow fractionation modes with a range of physical and chemical detectors.
Using this suite, we will be able to measure solution-phase properties of nanomaterial prototypes dispersed in their formulation vehicle or probe their interactions with biomacromolecules in blood components. This will provide information on formulation attributes and the early assessment of interactions with biological fluids. Some examples of parameters we are particularly interested in multiplexing the high-resolution analyses of size, charge, and shape factor (rg/rh) with changes occurring in the chemistry of nanoparticles using Raman analysis or inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry.
The MMS will also explore multiplexation with other detectors such as mass spectrometry for proteomics analysis of the nanoparticle corona proteome and high-resolution analysis of particle concentrations using nanoparticle tracking analysis (NTA).
What are the next steps for nanomedicine and this field of research?
In the era of precision medicine, the ability to fuse large clinical datasets with advanced bioanalytical tools will be transformative in nanomedicine design and selection for patients. Developing a deeper understanding of how nanomedicines interact with biological moieties enabled through advances in analytical technologies will provide the opportunity for us to reverse-engineer new prototypes for optimal safety and efficacy in areas of unmet clinical need.
We will work with our partners and collaborators to harmonize protocols and methods for the analysis of nanomedicine prototypes in an attempt to achieve consistency in the measurement and reporting of nanomedicine attributes.
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About Dr Zahra Rattray
Dr. Zahra Rattray is a Chancellor’s Research Fellow in Translational Pharmaceutics at the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences in Glasgow.
Dr. Rattray is an interdisciplinary translational pharmaceutical scientist with over 10 years’ experience of working in the academic, industry, and clinic sectors developing a diverse molecule portfolio. Zahra received her PhD in Drug Delivery from the University of Manchester in 2013, and completed a postdoctoral research position at Manchester, developing new analytical pipelines for profiling antibody drug product stability.
Zahra has significant formulation experience from her time at AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals as both a pre-clinical and late-stage formulation scientist. Zahra completed a postdoctoral research position at the Yale School of Medicine in partnership with Patrys Ltd where she explored cell-penetrating autoantibodies as DNA damage repair agents for the treatment of glioblastoma, and as targeting ligands for drug and gene delivery systems.
Since fall 2018, Dr Rattray has been a Chancellor’s Research Fellow at the University of Strathclyde. Her team explores the development of bioanalytical measurements for profiling the nanoparticle protein corona and the role of nuclear import in cancer progression.
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