CORDIS - EU research results

REpurposing lung Surfactant Protein B for Inhalation therapy with RNA therapeutics

Project description

Nanocarriers for RNA delivery in the lung

RNA therapeutics have the potential to revolutionise medicine, but efficient nanotechnology-based strategies are required for their delivery inside cells. The EU-funded RESPIRNA project proposes to repurpose the lung surfactant protein B (SP-B), a key component of pulmonary surfactant, for intracellular RNA delivery. Researchers will investigate the mechanism of action of SP-B and optimise its utilisation for RNA therapeutics. Deliverables will aid the rational design of the next generation of nanocarrier-based RNA formulations capable of crossing cell membranes. Long-term, this will address the unmet medical need for the treatment of many lung diseases.


RESPIRNA aims to repurpose lung surfactant protein B (SP-B) to promote the cytosolic delivery of RNA in lung-related target cells. RNA therapeutics, including small interfering RNA (siRNA) and messenger RNA (mRNA), are poised to revolutionize medicine. However, despite a clear unmet medical need in many lung diseases, no RNA formulations are currently available for pulmonary administration.

To unlock the full therapeutic potential of RNA drugs, safe and efficient nanomedicines that can deliver them inside target cells are required. SP-B is a key component of pulmonary surfactant, essential for mammalian breathing. In contrast to the general belief that pulmonary surfactant constitutes an important extracellular barrier for macromolecular drug delivery in the lung, I recently discovered a previously unknown property of SP-B in its ability to promote transmembrane delivery of RNA inside cells. Here, I aim to repurpose this biomaterial for intracellular RNA delivery, (1) by exploring SP-B's cellular mode-of-action towards improved cytosolic delivery of RNA, (2) by designing multifunctional and multicomponent lung surfactant nanocarriers and (3) by applying these nanocarriers for RNA delivery in the lung, using models of obstructive lung disease.

Gaining mechanistic insight into how an endogenous membrane-active protein like SP-B can mediate cytosolic RNA delivery will allow me to maximize SP-B mediated delivery of promising RNA therapeutics and will fuel rational design of lung surfactant inspired nanocarriers for inhalation therapy. Beyond RESPIRNA, I anticipate that such nanocarriers will be more generically applicable for a wider variety of membrane-impermeable drugs, nanomedicines and pathologies.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 985 828,00
9000 Gent

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Vlaams Gewest Prov. Oost-Vlaanderen Arr. Gent
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 985 828,00

Beneficiaries (1)