Aspartic Protease-Triggered Antifungal Hydrogels

Antimicrobial-resistant Candida is a growing public health problem. We have developed an aspartic protease-triggered hydrogel system that selectively delivers an antifungal drug only in the presence of a virulent, pathogenic Candida fungal infection.

Market Opportunity

Candida is the most common cause of fungal infections, and antimicrobial-resistant Candida is a growing threat that increases the severity of these infections. There are currently only four main classes of antifungal drugs. Certain virulent Candida albicans strains already show resistance to three of them, and a recently discovered strain, Candida auris, is resistant to all four drug classes. As a result, there is a need for drug delivery systems that limit exposure to antimicrobials to the site of fungal infection and deliver the antifungal drug only in the presence of a virulent, pathogenic Candida infection.

Innovation and Meaningful Advantages

We have developed a responsive target-triggered hydrogel system to combat skin wound fungal infections that releases an antifungal only in the presence of secreted aspartic proteases (Saps). This allows local delivery of controlled doses of a drug, potentially delaying drug resistance. The hydrogel system, which remains intact in a culture of non-pathogenic Candida, incorporates a degradable peptide sequence that responds specifically to aspartic proteases secreted by virulent, pathogenic Candida into the hydrogel backbone. The presence of the aspartic protease causes degradation of the hydrogel backbone, releasing the antifungal therapeutic agent.

The fabrication process of our hydrogel has an advantage over other methods that use harsh chemicals to polymerize hydrogels. Our process uses white light and an aqueous buffer as the solvent, enabling easy control of the shape and rigidity of the hydrogels; it can even be used to photopolymerize the hydrogels in situ. The system can support the delivery of different antifungal agents and can be readily modified to combat other fungal strains.

The responsive hydrogel material can also be used to coat a wide range of medical device surfaces to prevent biofilm formation and subsequent medical device-related infections.

Collaboration Opportunity

We are interested in exploring 1) startup opportunities with investors in the drug delivery space; 2) research collaborations with leading pharmaceutical companies; and 3) licensing opportunities for drug delivery companies.

Principal Investigator

Anita Shukla, PhD
Associate Professor of Engineering
Brown University

IP Information

US Utility US 2022-0265833 A1, Published August 25, 2022



Melissa Simon, PhD
Director of Business Development
Brown Tech ID 2500
Patent Information:
Drug Delivery
For Information, Contact:
Brown Technology Innovations
350 Eddy Street - Box 1949
Providence, RI 02903
Anita Shukla
Noel Vera-Gonzalez
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