Nature Reviews Drug Discovery 10, 521-535 (July 2011) | doi:10.1038/nrd3499

Bio-inspired, bioengineered and biomimetic drug delivery carriers

Jin-Wook Yoo1,2, Darrell J. Irvine3,4,5, Dennis E. Discher6 & Samir Mitragotri1  About the authors


Synthetic carriers such as polymer and lipid particles often struggle to meet clinical expectations. Natural particulates — that range from pathogens to mammalian cells — are therefore worth examining in more depth, as they are highly optimized for their specific functions in vivo and possess features that are often desired in drug delivery carriers. With a better understanding of these biological systems, in conjunction with the availability of advanced biotechnology tools that are useful for re-engineering the various natural systems, researchers have started to exploit natural particulates for multiple applications in the delivery of proteins, small interfering RNA and other therapeutic agents. Here, we review the natural drug delivery carriers that have provided the basis and inspiration for new drug delivery systems.

Author affiliations

  1. Department of Chemical Engineering, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106, USA.
  2. College of Pharmacy, Chosun University, Gwangju 501–759, South Korea.
  3. Department of Materials Science & Engineering, Department of Biological Engineering, Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139, USA.
  4. Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, Boston, Massachusetts 02139, USA.
  5. Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Chevy Chase, Maryland 20815, USA.
  6. Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104, USA.

Correspondence to: Samir Mitragotri1 Email:

Published online 1 July 2011