Nanotechnology and microfluidics
: formulation design and on-chip manufacture of nanoparticles

  • Elisabeth Kastner

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Nanoparticles offer an ideal platform for the delivery of small molecule drugs, subunit vaccines and genetic constructs. Besides the necessity of a homogenous size distribution, defined loading efficiencies and reasonable production and development costs, one of the major bottlenecks in translating nanoparticles into clinical application is the need for rapid, robust and reproducible development techniques. Within this thesis, microfluidic methods were investigated for the manufacturing, drug or protein loading and purification of pharmaceutically relevant nanoparticles.

Initially, methods to prepare small liposomes were evaluated and compared to a microfluidics-directed nanoprecipitation method. To support the implementation of statistical process control, design of experiment models aided the process robustness and validation for the methods investigated and gave an initial overview of the size ranges obtainable in each method whilst evaluating advantages and disadvantages of each method. The lab-on-a-chip system resulted in a high-throughput vesicle manufacturing, enabling a rapid process and a high degree of process control.

To further investigate this method, cationic low transition temperature lipids, cationic bola-amphiphiles with delocalized charge centers, neutral lipids and polymers were used in the microfluidics-directed nanoprecipitation method to formulate vesicles. Whereas the total flow rate (TFR) and the ratio of solvent to aqueous stream (flow rate ratio, FRR) was shown to be influential for controlling the vesicle size in high transition temperature lipids, the factor FRR was found the most influential factor controlling the size of vesicles consisting of low transition temperature lipids and polymer-based nanoparticles. The biological activity of the resulting constructs was confirmed by an invitro transfection of pDNA constructs using cationic nanoprecipitated vesicles. Design of experiments and multivariate data analysis revealed the mathematical relationship and significance of the factors TFR and FRR in the microfluidics process to the liposome size, polydispersity and transfection efficiency. Multivariate tools were used to cluster and predict specific in-vivo immune responses dependent on key liposome adjuvant characteristics upon delivery a tuberculosis antigen in a vaccine candidate. The addition of a low solubility model drug (propofol) in the nanoprecipitation method resulted in a significantly higher solubilisation of the drug within the liposomal bilayer, compared to the control method. The microfluidics method underwent scale-up work by increasing the channel diameter and parallelisation of the mixers in a planar way, resulting in an overall 40-fold increase in throughput. Furthermore, microfluidic tools were developed based on a microfluidics-directed tangential flow filtration, which allowed for a continuous manufacturing, purification and concentration of liposomal drug products.
Date of Award9 Feb 2016
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorYvonne Perrie (Supervisor)


  • nanoparticles
  • liposomes
  • microfluidics
  • process control

Cite this