University researchers license drug delivery technologies to Dow
Nov. 11, 2002
AUSTIN, Texas—A pair of new nano-particle engineering technologies developed by two University of Texas at Austin faculty has been licensed by The Dow Chemical Company and holds great promise for enabling the production of stronger, faster-acting pharmaceuticals and expanding treatment choices for doctors and patients.
The researchers, Dr. Keith Johnston, professor of chemical engineering, and Dr. Bill Williams, professor of pharmacy, are announcing the agreement today at the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists meeting in Toronto. At the same time, Dow is announcing BioAqueous solubilization services, which will bring these and other technologies to the pharmaceutical industry.
Johnston's and Williams' twin drug delivery powerhouses—called SFL (Spray Freezing Into Liquid) and EPAS (Evaporative Precipitation Into Aqueous Solution)—are separate processes for producing extremely fine, readily-absorbed (bioavailable) particles. The Dow Chemical Company has licensed the technologies, which Williams calls very broad. "You can apply it to oral, injectable, topical or pulmonary therapies: any mode of drug delivery," he says.
The pharmaceutical industry is targeting ailments as diverse as microbial infections, arthritis, diabetes, asthma—even schizophrenia. Sadly, about a third of new chemical entities coming from drug discovery efforts show poor solubility characteristics. Every year, pharmaceutical companies give up on promising but poorly soluble pharmaceuticals because they have low bioavailabity in the bloodstream, and existing solubilization technologies can't solve the problem. The new alternatives for solubilization developed at The University of Texas at Austin can help pharmaceutical companies bring more new drugs to market, giving doctors and patients more treatment options. SFL and EPAS both possess the ability to enhance drugs' performance by maximizing their particle surface area and wetability, thus making them more readily absorbed by the body.
Both SFL and EPAS achieve the same objective with poorly-water-soluble drugs in different ways.
In SFL, a drug's active ingredient ("active") is first dissolved in an organic solvent. Next, the solution is atomized and sprayed directly into a liquid that has been cooled to temperatures below –40 degrees Celsius (Johnston likens the process to a familiar high school science class experiment in which a flower is frozen by dipping it into liquid nitrogen). Finally, the liquefied gas and frozen solvent are removed, leaving behind a powder of nano-sized "active" particles that can be harnessed for oral, injectable or pulmonary therapies.
In EPAS—a technology designed strictly for use with poorly-water soluble drugs—a heated organic solution of the active agent is rapidly evaporated and atomized into an aqueous solution at normal temperatures and in the presence of chemical stabilizers that inhibit particle growth. It yields tiny, versatile active particles, comparable to those achieved with SFL.
The two technologies, which were licensed through the Office of Technology Licensing and Intellectual Property at The University of Texas at Austin, have become part of Dow's BioAqueous Solubilization Services portfolio of particle engineering technologies to enhance drug solubilization.
Both the university investigators and Dow leadership stress the importance of the collaborative approach. "What's particularly exciting about this venture, to everybody involved, is the pharmaceutical-chemical engineering team approach," says Williams. "We have married nano-particle engineering with pharmaceutical formulation to explore new frontiers in drug delivery," Johnston adds.
Rob Connors, Dow senior new business development leader, agrees. "Dow is delighted to be associated with these world-class researchers. The relationship offers an unparalleled multidisciplinary foundation, and we are continuing to collaborate to develop more problem-solving solubilization technologies," he said.
The research, which engaged four postdoctoral fellows, 12 doctoral candidates and seven undergraduate students over a three-year duration, was supported by Dow. It utilized multiple facilities in the Texas Materials Institute and the Center for Nano- and Molecular Science and Technology at The University of Texas at Austin; additionally, it benefited from related science and engineering in the National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center on Environmentally Responsible Solvents and Processes.
For more information contact: Becky Rische, College of Engineering, 512-471-7272 or 512-422-9918.