Scientists at University of Limerick are Working to Transform the Pharmaceutical Market

By Aisling Kelly

Scientists at University of Limerick (UL) are teaming up with Enterprise Ireland (EI) to commercialize continuous nanomanufacturing technology which promises to transform the pharmaceutical market.

The project, which launches this month, aims to tackle the biggest challenge facing the pharmaceutical industry today. While pharmaceutical companies are continually developing new drugs, seven out of ten of those drugs never reach the patient. This is not because they are ineffective at treating disease but because they are not soluble enough to be absorbed in the body.

Dr Luis Padrela, lecturer in industrial biochemistry in UL’s Bernal Institute, aims to change that. The key, according to Dr Padrela, lies in nanotechnology. EI’s Commercialisation Fund Programme has invested nearly half a million euro to enable Dr Padrela and his team bring their solutions to market.

Dr Padrela explained, “When poorly soluble drugs are produced at microscopic levels, or nanoparticles, they dissolve much more easily and can be targeted more effectively at disease. However, the manufacture of these nanotech drugs on a commercial scale remains a major challenge. That is the problem that we intend to solve.”

Dr Padrela and his UL team are developing continuous scalable methods of drug manufacture at the nano-level. Their research has attracted both national and international attention. Success in this area would mark a significant advance in the treatment and prevention of global ill-health.

The commercialisation project starts this month and will run for two years. The aim will be to establish a technology-based start-up/spin-out close to the end of the project. This new technology will meet the need of the next generation of (nano) medicines by generating faster-working drugs and leading to significant patient benefit.

The global pharmaceutical industry is a $1 trillion sales business with about 35% of sales in US and 15% in Europe, representing more than €30 billion in exports within Ireland. Ireland is one of the leading locations for the pharmaceutical industry in Europe with nine of the top 10 global pharmaceutical companies with operations in Ireland.