Principles of nanoparticle design for overcoming biological barriers to drug delivery

Nat Biotechnol. 2015 Sep;33(9):941-51. doi: 10.1038/nbt.3330.


Biological barriers to drug transport prevent successful accumulation of nanotherapeutics specifically at diseased sites, limiting efficacious responses in disease processes ranging from cancer to inflammation. Although substantial research efforts have aimed to incorporate multiple functionalities and moieties within the overall nanoparticle design, many of these strategies fail to adequately address these barriers. Obstacles, such as nonspecific distribution and inadequate accumulation of therapeutics, remain formidable challenges to drug developers. A reimagining of conventional nanoparticles is needed to successfully negotiate these impediments to drug delivery. Site-specific delivery of therapeutics will remain a distant reality unless nanocarrier design takes into account the majority, if not all, of the biological barriers that a particle encounters upon intravenous administration. By successively addressing each of these barriers, innovative design features can be rationally incorporated that will create a new generation of nanotherapeutics, realizing a paradigmatic shift in nanoparticle-based drug delivery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biocompatible Materials / chemical synthesis*
  • Biocompatible Materials / toxicity
  • Drug Compounding / methods*
  • Drug Design*
  • Nanocapsules / chemistry*
  • Nanocapsules / toxicity
  • Nanocapsules / ultrastructure*
  • Nanomedicine / methods*


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Nanocapsules