Targeting drugs to the brain

The blood-brain barrier (BBB) presents a significant obstacle to drug delivery into the brain. As such, conventional methods of medicine administration often fail to target various brain diseases. In this project, the goal is to fully focus on the development of an anti-brain cancer drug candidate. More specifically, the project aims to identify Nanobodies® that can cross the BBB or the blood-cerebrospinal-fluid barrier by receptor-mediated transcytosis in a smart in vivo screen that bypasses the current limitations of lab models.

This search for Nanobodies that can cross the BBB will the be used as a starting point for the development of novel therapeutics. Using this approach will form a new framework for the treatment of various neurological and psychiatric conditions. 

The project includes an elaborated strategy for the development of our clinical candidate upon successful completion of this grant. The fact that we have generated in less than one year an effective receptor mediated transcytosis Nanobody in mice demonstrates that we are capable to deliver efficiently and effectively within the short time frame of the Grand Challenges Program.

Overall, this project has the following goals:
  • Identify Nanobodies that can efficiently cross the BBB and can be used to deliver anti-brain cancer drugs.
  • Develop and use a smart in vivo screen that represents a marked improvement over the limited current lab models.
  • Build on the gained knowledge to begin the development of effective BBB-crossing therapeutics for brain cancer.

Project funding:
€ 1.5 million


 Targeting drugs to the brain



VIB-KU Leuven

Bart De Strooper (promotor-spokesperson)
Maarten Dewilde 


Roosmarijn Vandenbroucke

NERF- VIB-imec-KU Leuven

Sebastian Haesler

 KU Leuven-UZ Leuven

Peter Janssen 
Frederik De Smet 

Bart De Strooper"The single most important hurdle to successful therapy for brain disorders is drug delivery across the blood-brain barrier. We propose a pioneering approach to identify new, safer and more efficient treatment routes for brain disease, and a first proof-of-concept would be the delivery of treatments for breast cancer brain metastasis. Thanks to the Grand Challenges program, we can work together with the best researchers across the globe to develop game-changing solutions for the treatments of brain tumors, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, or autoimmune disorders such as MS.”​

-> Go back to the overview page of 'VIB Grand Challenges Program'​

Bart De Strooper