Exploring Solid-State Chemistry - Pharmaceutical Technology

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Exploring Solid-State Chemistry
Optimizing the solid form of a drug reaps scientific and technical awards.


Pharmaceutical Technology
Volume 32, Issue 11, pp. 58-64

Pharmaterials (Reading, England) is another specialist in solid-state chemistry that was the recent acquisition target by a CMO. Pharmaterials was founded in January 2000 by Professor Graham Buckton as a spinout company from the London School of Pharmacy. In January 2008, the CMO Pharmaceutics International (PII, Hunt Valley, MD) acquired Pharmaterials, which later this year added to its capabilities in polymorph screening. In August 2008, the company announced it had commissioned and tested additional XRD equipment. Pharmaterials worked with the analytical instrumentation company PANAlytical (Lelyweg, The Netherlands) to develop a 96-well plate transmission system that allows for rapid reading of its screening plates as a primary screen for polymorphism. Working alongside the previous capability for powder diffraction and single crystal X-ray studies, this new instrument provides rapid and sensitive sample handling, according to the company. Data can be generated with a small sample mass and the instrument can detect and quantify 1% amorphous content in crystalline samples.

Adding solid-state services was also an objective of Aptuit (Greenwich, CT), which acquired the solid-state chemistry company SSCI in 2007. With the acquisition, Aptuit gained SSCI's 100 employees and facilities in West Lafayette, Indiana; Atlanta, Georgia and Oxford, England.

With CMOs interested in adding solid-state services to their toolboxes, certain specialists have made their commitment to stay independent be known. For example, in June 2008, Tom van Aken, CEO of Avantium Technologies (Amsterdam) affirmed the company's commitment to offering solid-state services following the company's withdrawal of an initial public offering in November 2007. Avantium specializes in high-throughput screening, combinatorial catalysis, and solid-state chemistry.

"In 2006 and 2007, most of our competitors became part of large contract service organizations with a 'one-stop-shop' philosophy," van Aken said in a June 20, 2008 company press release. "We have been and remain a true specialist in the area of crystallization research. Moving forward, we expect to expand our business with biotech companies and midsize pharmaceutical companies while continuing to augment the capabilities of large pharma companies, especially for comprehensive solid-form screens."

Academic research

Academia is also getting involved. In July 2008, the Solid State Pharmaceuticals Cluster (SSPC) was launched at the University of Limerick in Ireland. The research group supports pharmaceutical companies in Ireland. "The combined expertise and background knowledge of the cluster enables the development of a research area in Ireland which supports the pharmaceutical industry by developing the expertise, research, and capacity to understand, generate, design and optimize processes to manufacture solid-state pharmaceuticals to meet the demands of advanced formulation and drug delivery systems," said Professor Kieran Hodnett, dean of the faculty of science and engineering at the University of Limerick and project leader of SSPC, in a July 2008 university press release. "Researchers will study, in a fundamental manner, properties of pharmaceutical solids that have a definite impact on performance characteristics, e.g., random variability of flow characteristics from batch to batch leading to handling failures at the formulation stage."

SSPC is providing training to the PhD level in pharmaceutical solids. "The training will come from the best academic and industrial laboratories in this country and overseas and will provide an exciting mixture of academic and industrial experience as a preparation for a career in this industry," said Hodnett. "It will address the severe and growing shortage of PhD graduates in the areas of physical chemistry, chemical and mechanical engineering, and pharmaceutics. Industry sources point to the lack of skilled graduates in all the technical areas dealing with pharmaceutical solids, and this shortfall is a definite impediment to the Irish industry in its collective ambition to move back along the value chain within their companies and increase competitiveness," he said.


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