Mimicking the nature to design and guide therapeutic nanoparticles

Title of the research project

MIMIC-KeY - A key to the rational design of extracellular vesicles mimicking nanoparticles

Scientific area 

Bioengineering, Biophysics, Advanced materials, chemistry of materials, biology, translational medicine


A project dedicated to study and understand the extracellular vesicles intrinsic targeting capabilities in the case of tumor metastases, to take inspiration from their functioning mechanims and treat a rare bone disease.

Description of the research project 

Being able to target a specific tissue or cell type is a fundamental challenge of targeted therapies such as drug delivery. Nature offers examples of selective targeting, such as cancer metastasis. Specific types of cancer metastasize selectively in determined organs, showing the ability of cancer to recognize and target tissue-specific features, thanks to intrinsic capabilities of extracellular vesicles.

MIMIC-KeY project will create artificial nanoparticles mimicking extracellular vesicles to obtain the capability to target a specific tissue.  In particular, it takes inspiration from two cancer diseases that create metastasis in bone tissues: prostate cancer and multiple myeloma, with the objective of designing nanoparticles to transport and deliver drugs to fight a rare lysosomal metabolic bone diseases, pycnodysostosis. This disease is due to the lack of a specific enzyme and current treatments, based on the enzyme replacement therapies or new drug developments  are ineffective because of frequent off-target effects and toxicity. The project will achieve this important knowledge and technology objectives through the collaborative work of an international and multidisciplinary consortium of partners, with competences in bioengineering, biophysics, chemistry, modelling, biology and translational medicine. The study will include an initial phase of testing the possible therapy.

Impact on society

MIMICK-KEY will bring new methods to realize nature inspired and mimetic bioparticles and their functionalities, with an important potential impact in the field of pharmaceutical industry and nanomedicine.


Working group @Polito 

Valentina Cauda, Associate professor, project coordinator

Silvia Appendino, Postdoc

Bianca Dumontel, Postdoc

Sugata Barui, Postdoc


National and International partners

Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, Netherlands 

Istituto Di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri, Italy

Scuola Universitaria Professionale Della Svizzera Italiana, Swizerland

Universiteit Utrecht, Netherlands 

Fundacio Hospital Universitari Vall D'Hebron - Institut De Recerca, Spain

Oxford NanoImaging Ltd, United Kingdom


MIMIC-KeY project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under grant agreement No. 964386

  • Budget: 2.902.000 euro
  • Start date: 1/06/2021
  • End date: 31/05/2025