Silk-based drug delivery systems


Silk’s ability to control drug release encompasses small molecular weight compounds and macromolecular protein drugs. Protein drugs are susceptible to denaturation, aggregation, proteolytic cleavage and clearance by the immune system. However, silk has remarkable properties for stabilising therapeutic proteins; silk’s nanocrystalline regions exert a buffering capacity, tailor water content at the nanoscale, provide physical protection and reduce payload mobility. These unique features are typically not seen with other (bio)polymers. Silk has a robust safety record in humans and it is known to degrade in vivo. Silk’s degradation products are non-toxic and are metabolised in the body.


Approah 1: Silk films for focal therapy

Silk films can be generated using aqueous processing conditions and drug loaded during or post manufacturing. We demonstrated the ability of silk films to load and release doxorubicin and we successfully applied this technology to the in vivo focal therapy of neuroblastoma and breast cancer.

Approach 2: Silk hydrogels

Silk hydrogels self-assemble under ambient conditions within minutes to hours following energy input; the kinetics of this process can be fine-tuned. Biopharmaceuticals can be incorporated as it undergoes in situ gelation. We have demonstrated that drug release from silk hydrogels can be fine-tuned and extended over several weeks. Silk hydrogels are injectable and can be readily repurposed for stem cell delivery.

Key benefits

  • degradation profile of silk can be fine-tuned
  • opportunity to trigger rapid silk degradation in situ

Markets & applications

  • drug delivery for a wide variety of indications
  • stem cell delivery

Licensing & development

We're seeking a development partner for this project. Please contact the RKES team for further information.