A collaboration between the University of Leeds, Durham University and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is looking at 'printing' pills to order, to create safer and faster-acting medicines.
It should also bring new drugs to market faster, so patients can benefit more quickly from medical advances.
The research, led by Dr Nik Kapur from the University's Faculty of Engineering, is set to revolutionise a process which has remained unchanged for over a thousand years.
GSK has developed a way of printing active pharmaceutical ingredients onto tablets but the process can only currently be applied to just 0.5 per cent of all medicines used in tablet form. The researchers hope the new project will see this increase this to 40 per cent.
"Some active ingredients can be dissolved in a liquid, which then behaves like normal ink, so then the process is fairly straightforward," explains Dr Kapur. "However, when you're working with active ingredients that don't dissolve, the particles of the drug are suspended in the liquid, which creates very different properties and challenges for use within a printing system.
"For some tablets, you may also need higher concentrations of active ingredients to create the right dose, and this will affect how the liquid behaves."
A medicine droplet is 20 times larger than an ink droplet in a standard ink-jet system, so the challenges facing the researchers include the numbers of drops that each tablet can hold, and how to increase the level of active ingredient in each drop. The research will also look at the properties and behaviour of the suspension, the shape and size of the printing nozzle and ways to pump the suspension through the printing equipment.
Drugs produced in this way would be faster acting, as with the active ingredient on the pill's surface, the pill would no longer need to be broken down by the digestive system before the drug can enter the bloodstream. Ultimately it would also
|Contact: Abigail Chard|
University of Leeds