Nav: Home

Pharmacy on demand

March 31, 2016

CAMBRIDGE, MA -- MIT researchers have developed a compact, portable pharmaceutical manufacturing system that can be reconfigured to produce a variety of drugs on demand.

Just as an emergency generator supplies electricity to handle a power outage, this system could be rapidly deployed to produce drugs needed to handle an unexpected disease outbreak, or to prevent a drug shortage caused by a manufacturing plant shutdown, the researchers say.

"Think of this as the emergency backup for pharmaceutical manufacturing," says Allan Myerson, an MIT professor of the practice in the Department of Chemical Engineering. "The purpose is not to replace traditional manufacturing; it's to provide an alternative for these special situations."

Such a system could also be used to produce small quantities of drugs needed for clinical trials or to treat rare diseases, says Klavs Jensen, the Warren K. Lewis Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT.

"The goal of this project was to build a small-scale, portable unit that was completely integrated, so you could imagine being able to ship it anywhere. And as long as you had the right chemicals, you could make pharmaceuticals," Jensen says.

Jensen, Myerson, and Timothy Jamison, the head of MIT's Department of Chemistry, are the senior authors of a paper describing the new system in the March 31 online edition of Science. The lead author is MIT research associate Andrea Adamo.

More flexibility

Traditional drug manufacturing, also known as "batch processing," can take weeks or months. Active pharmaceutical ingredients are synthesized in chemical manufacturing plants and then shipped to other sites to be converted into a form that can be given to patients, such as tablets, drug solutions, or suspensions. This system offers little flexibility to respond to surges in demand and is susceptible to severe disruption if one of the plants has to shut down.

Many pharmaceutical companies are now looking into developing an alternative approach known as flow processing -- a continuous process that is done all in one location. Five years ago, an MIT team that included Jamison, Jensen, and Myerson demonstrated a larger prototype (24 by 8 by 8 feet) for the continuous integrated manufacturing of drugs from chemical synthesis to tablets. That project has ended, but the continuous manufacturing initiative, funded by Novartis, is still underway as the researchers develop new methods for synthesis, purification, and formulation.

In the new endeavor, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the MIT researchers built on what they learned from the Novartis-funded project to create a much smaller, transportable device. Their new system can produce four drugs formulated as solutions or suspensions -- Benadryl, lidocaine, Valium, and Prozac. Using this apparatus, the researchers can manufacture about 1,000 doses of a given drug in 24 hours.

Key to the continuous system is the development of chemical reactions that can take place as the reactants flow through relatively small tubes as opposed to the huge vats in which most pharmaceutical reactions now take place. Traditional batch processing is limited by the difficulty of cooling these vats, but the flow system allows reactions that produce a great deal of heat to be run safely.

"In many cases we were developing syntheses of targets that had never been done in a continuous flow platform," Jamison says. "That presents a lot of challenges even if there is a good precedent from the batch perspective. We also recognized it as an opportunity where, because of some of the phenomena that one can leverage in [a flow-based system], you can make molecules differently."

The chemical reactions required to synthesize each drug take place in the first of two modules. The reactions were designed so that they can take place at temperatures up to 250 degrees Celsius and pressures up to 17 atmospheres.

By swapping in different module components, the researchers can easily reconfigure the system to produce different drugs. "Within a few hours we could change from one compound to the other," Jensen says.

In the second module, the crude drug solution is purified by crystallization, filtered, and dried to remove solvent, then dissolved or suspended in water as the final dosage form. The researchers also incorporated an ultrasound monitoring system that ensures the formulated drug solution is at the correct concentration.

Small-scale manufacturing

One of the advantages of this small-scale system is that it could be used to make small amounts of drugs that would be prohibitively expensive to make in a large-scale plant. This would be useful for so-called "orphan drugs" -- drugs needed by a small number of patients. "Sometimes it's very difficult to get those drugs, because economically it makes no sense to have a huge production operation for those," Jensen says.

It could also be useful in regions with few pharmaceutical storage facilities, because drugs can be produced on demand, eliminating the need for long-term storage.

"The idea here is you make what you need, and you make a simple dosage form, because they're going to be taken on demand. The dosages don't have to have long-term stability," Myerson says. "People line up, you make it, and they take it."

The researchers are now working on the second phase of the project, which includes making the system about 40 percent smaller and producing drugs whose chemical syntheses are more complex. They are also working on producing tablets, which are more complicated to manufacture than liquid drugs.
-end-


Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Related Chemical Reactions Articles:

Caught on camera -- chemical reactions 'filmed' at the single-molecule level
Scientists have succeeded in 'filming' inter-molecular chemical reactions -- using the electron beam of a transmission electron microscope as a stop-frame imaging tool.
Study: Some catalysts contribute their own oxygen for reactions
New MIT research shows that metal-oxide catalysts can sometimes release oxygen from within their structure, enhancing chemical activity.
Chemists uncover a means to control catalytic reactions
Scientists at the University of Toronto have found a way to make catalysis more selective, breaking one chemical bond 100 times faster than another.
Deep insights from surface reactions
Using the Stampede supercomputer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center, researchers have developed biosensors that can speed up drug development, designed improved materials for desalinization, and explored new ways of generating energy from bacteria.
Scientists trace 'poisoning' in chemical reactions to the atomic scale
A combination of experiments, including X-ray studies at Berkeley Lab, revealed new details about pesky deposits that can stop chemical reactions vital to fuel production and other processes.
How solvent molecules cooperate in reactions
Molecules from the solvent environment that at first glance seem to be uninvolved can be essential for chemical reactions.
Scientists rev up speed of bionic enzyme reactions
Bionic enzymes got a needed boost in speed thanks to new research at the Berkeley Lab.
Adverse drug reactions may be under-reported in young children
A new study reveals that adverse drug reactions in newborns and infants may be under-reported.
New model predicts once-mysterious chemical reactions
A team of researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Curtin University in Australia developed a theoretical model to forecast the fundamental chemical reactions involving molecular hydrogen.
Syracuse University chemists add color to chemical reactions
Members of the Maye Research Group at Syracuse University have designed a nanomaterial that changes color when it interacts with ions and other small molecules during a chemical reaction.

Related Chemical Reactions Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Bias And Perception
How does bias distort our thinking, our listening, our beliefs... and even our search results? How can we fight it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas about the unconscious biases that shape us. Guests include writer and broadcaster Yassmin Abdel-Magied, climatologist J. Marshall Shepherd, journalist Andreas Ekström, and experimental psychologist Tony Salvador.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#513 Dinosaur Tails
This week: dinosaurs! We're discussing dinosaur tails, bipedalism, paleontology public outreach, dinosaur MOOCs, and other neat dinosaur related things with Dr. Scott Persons from the University of Alberta, who is also the author of the book "Dinosaurs of the Alberta Badlands".