Researchers form startup to commercialize drug delivering magnets

Illustration showing magnetically controlled delivery--Courtesy of University of Maryland

Researchers at the University of Maryland and Bethesda, MD-based Weinberg Medical Physics (WMP) have created a startup called Iron Focus Medical that attempts to build on their prior research to commercialize a novel drug delivery system.

The team envisions deploying multiple external magnets to focus therapy to a precise location inside the patient's body located between the magnets. Traditionally, the fact that objects could only be guided toward the magnet's face meant that they could only concentrate treatment at or near the surface of the skin, the team points out in their release.

"What we have shown experimentally is that by exploiting the physics of nanorods we can use fast pulsed magnetic fields to focus the particles to a deep target between the magnets," said Benjamin Shapiro, a professor at the University of Maryland Institute for Systems Research, in a statement.

Additional research to test the magnetic drug delivery system in vivo is being funded by the National Cancer Institute Small Business Innovation Research program, which also funded the prior research, along with other government agencies.

Benjamin Shapiro

"The Holy Grail of magnetic drug targeting is the dream of using magnets outside the body to minimally invasively direct drug therapy to anywhere inside the body, for example, to inoperable deep tumors or to sections of the brain that have been damaged by trauma, vascular or degenerative diseases," said Dr. Irving Weinberg, the president of WMP. "We have shown that fast pulsing of external electromagnetic fields may be able to achieve this goal."

The team released a study in Nano Letters demonstrating their ability to concentrate drug carrying ferromagnetic particles to arbitrarily deep locations between magnets, according to the release. The paper explains the scientific principles behind the advancement.

It received the endorsement of Dr. John Adler, chief of new clinical applications for cancer treatment company Varian Medical Systems, who said in a statement that "this technology could enable a new therapeutic modality that combines the spatial precision of traditional image-guided radiation with the biochemical specificity of molecular medicine."

- read the release
- here's the paper abstract
- here's more about Iron Focus Medical