Journal of Controlled Release, 2019, vol 307pp. 302-314
A large variety of nanoparticle-based delivery systems have become increasingly important for diagnostic and/or therapeutic applications. Yet, the numerous physical and chemical parameters that influence both the biological and colloidal properties of nanoparticles remain poorly understood. This complicates the ability to reliably produce and deliver well-defined nanocarriers which often leads to inconsistencies, conflicts in the published literature and, ultimately, poor translation to the clinics. A critical issue lies in the challenge of scaling-up nanomaterial synthesis and formulation from the lab to industrial scale while maintaining control over their diverse properties. Studying these phenomena early on in the development of a therapeutic agent often requires partnerships between the public and private sectors which are hard to establish. In this study, through the particular case of squalene-adenosine nanoparticles, we reported on the challenges encountered in the process of scaling-up nanomedicines synthesis. Here, squalene (the carrier) was functionalized and conjugated to adenosine (the active drug moiety) at an industrial scale in order to obtain large quantities of biocompatible and biodegradable nanoparticles. After assessing nanoparticle batch-to-batch consistency, we demonstrated that the presence of squalene analogs resulting from industrial scale-up may influence several features such as size, surface charge, protein adsorption, cytotoxicity and crystal structure. These analogs were isolated, characterized by multiple stage mass spectrometry, and their influence on nanoparticle properties further evaluated. We showed that slight variations in the chemical profile of the nanocarrier’s constitutive material can have a tremendous impact on the reproducibility of nanoparticle properties. In a context where several generics of approved nanoformulated drugs are set to enter the market in the coming years, characterizing and solving these issues is an important step in the pharmaceutical development of nanomedicines.