Columbia University

Technology Ventures

Thermoresponsive biodegradable polymers with tunable temperature-dependent solubility

Technology #cu14314

Targeted drug delivery is being explored as an alternative to chemotherapy in cancer treatment. While many anti-cancer agents have been identified, applications have been limited due to temperature sensitivity and cytotoxicity of the carrier polymer. This technology describes methods for creating biodegradable polyacetal-based polymers with a specified lower critical solution temperature (LCST). This technology provides pathways for delivery of a range of novel pharmaceutical agents.

Thermally responsive, pH degradable carrier conjugate for targeted non-toxic drug delivery

The technology reported here represents a new class of polymers for drug delivery. This technology is an improvement over the traditional thermo-responsive polymers known as poly-(N-isopropylacrylamide), or pNIPAM, because these polymers can be prepared for a variety of specific lower critical solution temperatures (LCSTs, the temperature above which the polymer separates from its solvent) by chemical modification during synthesis. By altering the number of functional groups on the polymer, the LCST can be adjusted. As such, this means that there is precise control over the temperature at which the polymer will change its solubility, a critical feature for drug delivery. This technology is able to achieve the desired LCSTs for targeted drug delivery between body temperature and below the local tumor temperature (42° C). This technology is also an improvement because, unlike tough pNIPAM polymers, these polymers degrade into neutral, non-toxic, water-soluble small molecules under mildly acidic conditions (pH 5-6.5).

This technology has been validated through a series of laboratory tests.

Lead Inventor:

Jeffrey T. Koberstein, Ph.D.


  • Anti-cancer therapeutics
  • Targeted drug delivery
  • Therapeutics for crops, plants or seeds


  • Simple chemical synthesis methods
  • Highly predictable and tunable release of cargo over a temperature range of 6-80°C
  • Rapid phase transition and release of cargo within 3-5°C targets hyperthermic cancer environments
  • Biodegradable in mildly acidic conditions
  • Non-toxic byproducts after pH induced degradation
  • Controllable degradation conditions
  • Polymer chain-end functionality for versatility beyond cancer therapies

Patent Information:

Patent Pending (WO/2016/090103)

Tech Ventures Reference: IR CU14314

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