Dynamic Polyconjugates™

The DPC delivery system represents an elegant solution to the siRNA delivery problem, specifically designed to overcome barriers to systemic administration of siRNA. First developed by our scientists in Madison, Wisconsin, the inspiration for DPC technology came from the physical characteristics of viruses, nature's own nanoparticles for nucleic acid delivery.

Viruses are efficient at finding their target cells and delivering their nucleic acid payload to the proper cellular compartment. Key features of viruses are their small size, their overall negative surface charge, their specificity for particular cell types based on receptors unique to that cell, and their ability to disassemble and release their nucleic acid cargo to the proper cell compartment in response to cellular triggers. All of these features are incorporated into DPC technology.

DPCs are small nanoparticles, 5-20 nanometers (nm) in size, composed of an amphipathic polymer to which shielding agents such as polyethylene glycol, as well as targeting ligands are reversibly attached. In some constructs, the siRNA payload is attached to the DPC, while in other constructs, the siRNA circulates attached to a different carrier. When attached, the DPC construct protects the siRNA payload while allowing the polymer to circulate in the blood without creating undue toxicity.

The targeting ligand guides the nanoparticles to the cell of interest where, together with the siRNA, it is taken up into a membrane-enclosed cellular compartment known as an endosome. The polymer is selected for its ability to lyse the endosomal membrane which releases the siRNA into the cytoplasm. There, it engages the cell's RNAi machinery, ultimately resulting in knockdown of target gene expression.

The lytic chemistry of the DPC polymeric backbone is modified, or "masked", using proprietary chemistry. Masking of the polymer's lytic chemistry accomplishes two interrelated objectives that are critical to in vivo siRNA delivery:

  • Reduction of toxicity by controlling when the membrane lytic property of the polymer is activated.
  • Inhibition of non-specific interactions with blood components and non-targeted cell types.

Advantages over Lipid-based Systems

We believe our DPC technology is radically different from standard liposomal or lipid nanoparticle siRNA delivery systems used by the majority of RNAi therapeutics companies. DPCs are smaller than lipid-based systems, enabling more efficient distribution from the vasculature to the target tissue. DPCs can use targeting ligands for cell-type specific delivery, which has yet to be achieved with the lipid-based systems used in clinical development programs. The modular nature of DPCs allows each component to be optimized for higher efficacy and lower toxicity. As a polymer-based system, DPCs are fundamentally different from lipid-based systems. This has the potential to open up an entirely new class of macromolecules to enable siRNA delivery.

DPCs for Liver Diseases

Hepatocytes, the key parenchymal cells of the liver, are a particularly attractive target cell type for siRNA delivery given their central role in several infectious and metabolic diseases. Latest generation DPCs have shown high effectiveness in rats and non-human primates with ED80 (dose producing 80% knockdown of the gene of interest) values of ~0.1 mg/kg siRNA after a single dose. Increasing the dose two-fold in non-human primates results in >99% knockdown with a duration of effect of nearly 7 weeks. DPCs are also well tolerated and have single-dose therapeutic indices of >10 in non-human primates, indicating that there is a ten-fold safety margin between the effective dose and the toxic dose. The magnitude of the safety margin and efficiency of gene knockdown in non-human primates is, to our knowledge, unprecedented in the therapeutic RNAi field as compared to available data generated with competing delivery systems, and position DPC technology as a leading technology for siRNA delivery to liver.

DPCs for Cancer

Our DPC cancer delivery program is developing the optimal components for targeting DPCs to tumors. This includes identifying ligands for efficient targeting, screening polymer libraries for the most potent polymer for a given cancer cell type and enhancing tumor uptake by modulating the pharmacokinetic properties of the DPC. DPCs for several types of tumors are currently under development. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) has been one of our focus areas. Gene knockdown of 40-50% has been achieved with a single dose of tumor-directed DPCs in a mouse orthotopic HCC tumor model. These results equal or surpass those published with other best-in-class siRNA delivery platforms and validate our overall strategy for tumor targeted DPC delivery. Our current focus is on further improving delivery to tumors, gene knockdown efficacy and therapeutic index by optimizing individual DPC components in animal models.