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Improving drug delivery using red blood cell hitchhiking


A major challenge in drug delivery is ensuring that the drug reaches the target organ at a concentration sufficient to treat the disease. This is particularly problematic for acute illnesses of the vasculature, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), ischemic stroke, and myocardial infarction. In these diseases, patients are often too sick to tolerate off-target drug side effects, and systemically delivered drugs rarely accumulate to a significant extent in the organs affected by pathology.



Drs. Jacob Brenner and Vladimir Muzykantov have developed a drug delivery system that can address these challenges. The drug delivery system, “Red Blood Cell (RBC)-Hitchhiking Nanoparticles” (RHNs), utilizes soft nanoparticles, such as liposomes and nanogels, loaded with drugs and the natural properties of RBCs to target the lung endothelium. The nanoparticles are adsorbed onto the surface of the RBC and delivered intravascularly. Once the nanoparticle-RBCs encounter their first capillary bed, the RBCs are physically squeezed, causing the release of the drug-loaded nanoparticles into the capillary endothelium. Since delivery is dependent on the squeezing of RBCs, the nanoparticles do not release their drug cargo until they enter the pulmonary capillaries. This approach minimizes delivery of the drug to sites other than the target organ and ensures that sufficient drug concentration reaches the target site.


Image courtesy of Brenner JS et al. Nat Commun, 9(1):2684 covered by Creative Commons license.



Targeted drug delivery for treatment of diseases of the capillary endothelium: ARDS, ischemic stroke, acute myocardial infarction



  • Minimize off-target drug effects
  • Maximize delivery of drug to target organ
  • Can be delivered intravenously to target the lungs or via intra-arterial catheters to deliver to any target organ, including the brain and heart


Stage Of Development: 

Validation studies completed in rodent and pig models


Intellectual Property:

US utility patent pending 15/722,583


Reference Media: 


Desired Partnerships: 

  • License
  • Co-development


Docket # 16-7880



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Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Jessica Casciano
Licensing Officer, PSOM Licensing Group
University of Pennsylvania
(215) 573-5414
Jacob Brenner
Vladimir Muzykantov