National Science Foundation Awards Multimillion Grant in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

May 25, 2006
Patricia Van Arnum

Patricia Van Arnum was executive editor of Pharmaceutical Technology.

ePT--the Electronic Newsletter of Pharmaceutical Technology

Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey (New Brunswick, NJ), the New Jersey Institute of Technology (Newark, NJ), Purdue University (West Lafayette, IN), and the University of Puerto Rico (Mayag?ez, PR) won a $15-million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation (Arlington, VA) to improve the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, food, and agricultural products.


Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey (New Brunswick, NJ, www.rutgers.edu),the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT, Newark, NJ, www.njit.edu), PurdueUniversity (West Lafayette, IN, www.purdue.edu), and the University of Puerto Rico(Mayagüez, PR, www.upr.clu.edu)won a $15-million, five-year grant from the National Science Foundation(NSF, Arlington, VA, www.nsf.gov)to improve the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, food, and agriculturalproducts.

The grant funds an NSF Engineering Research Center (ERC) to enhance thequality and consistency of materials used in drug tablets, processedfoods, agrochemicals, and other composite organic products. Researchwill focus on the structure of component materials, including particleshapes and sizes and forces that bind them together. The center alsowill study how to produce structured materials in large quantityefficiently. Understanding the nature of these materials will provide afoundation for new manufacturing processes that are more predictable,consistent, and cost effective.

"While these industries have come up with many innovations such ascontrolled-release drug tablets, there is still more opportunity toincorporate materials science and engineering methods inmanufacturing," says Fernando Muzzio, the grant's principalinvestigator. Muzzio is a professor of chemical and biochemicalengineering at Rutgers and a member of Pharmaceutical Technology'seditorial advisory board.  "Today's products and processes wereoften developed through costly and time-consuming experimentation. Wewant to uncover more of the science behind these products and theengineering that goes into making them, so companies can get them tomarket faster, cut costs and eliminate waste."

Lead investigators on the grant from collaborating institutions areRajesh Dave at NJIT, Gintaras Reklaitis and Kenneth Morris at PurdueUniversity, and Carlos Velazquez at the University of Puerto Rico. 

The consortium will draw additional industry support: 28 companies areproviding $2.5 million in research funding during the ERC's first year.The consortium expects to bring in as much as $40 million in additionalsupport over the next 10 years from pharmaceutical and food makers aswell as companies that supply manufacturing and analytical equipment.

The ERC also expands a five-year, $3.2-million doctoral trainingprogram in nanopharmaceutical engineering that the NSF awarded Rutgers,NJIT, and the University of Puerto Rico in 2005. That grant is part ofthe NSF's Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship(IGERT) program, which provides interdisciplinary training toscientists and engineers pursuing doctorates in fields with broadsocietal impact. Graduate students in the Rutgers-led IGERT willdevelop nanoparticle-based drug delivery systems, includingnanoparticle product and process design.


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