Co-crystallisation could speed up drug production

Researchers at Bradford’s University Centre for Pharmaceutical Engineering Science have created a new method of creating co-crystals, using a technique based on twin screw extrusion, a process that is well established in the plastics industry.

In a three-year project funded by EPSRC they are now seeking to understand the science behind the process.

According to Bradford University, co-crystallisation provides an alternative to traditional methods of creating targeted soluble drug compounds and has potential to assist industry in creating new drugs with increased stability, speed and more efficiency.

By creating co-crystals that include the active ingredient and other accepted materials, such as a vitamin or sugar, the solubility of the active ingredient is improved.

Anant Paradkar, professor of Pharmaceutical Engineering Science, said: ‘The technique we’ve been using lends itself well to industrial-scale manufacturing as it’s scalable, continuous and solvent-free. Better understanding of how the crystals are forming will help us to optimise the process.’

The extrusion process that underlies the new technique is said to rely on a combination of high temperatures and shearing forces to convert raw materials into co-crystals. In experiments, co-crystal purity of model drugs such as ibuprofen was shown to be close to 100 per cent.

Using a selection of model drugs and co-formers, the project team at Bradford will examine the optimum conditions for co-crystal formation. Using a range of analytical techniques, researchers will characterise the crystalline materials and be able to fully see how the crystals are being formed. Throughout the project, the properties of new co-crystals, such as their solubility, stability and efficacy, will be assessed.

‘This is a really exciting project,’ said Prof Paradkar. ‘Not only will we understand how the process works — which will enable the creation of new co-crystals — we’ll also be assessing how these might be delivered to patients. For the pharmaceutical industry there’s a lot to gain, but let’s not forget that, ultimately, it’ll be patients and the health service that benefit from the faster development of new drugs.’