While innovative process development in the drug sector is still dominated by Big Pharma firms, in recent years the number of smaller-scale drugmakers seeking to industrialize their own products has increased significantly.
This trend has driven demand for cost effective process development capacity and expertise, as often, smaller firms lack the capacity to either set up industrial processes in-house or partner with contract manufacturing ogranisations (CMO)
The new Leeds facility is designed to meet just such demand. It houses analytical, batch and continuous processing equipment, a 20-50 litre, ATEX-compliant, testing and production facility, reaction hazard and process testing calorimeters and a suite of on-line PAT equipment.
In addition to process development projects, the new laboratory has the capacity to conduct contract manufacturing projects, which again is likely to be welcomed by drugmakers wanting small-scale production runs.
John Blacker, technical director of the Institute of Process Research and Development (iPRD) which operates the new laboratory, explained it will focus on creating “[innovative] processes for specific commercial challenges”.
Prof Blacker added that: “This will enable smaller companies to access chemical process and manufacturing R&D, thereby improving their competitiveness and green credentials without the conventional barriers of high research costs.”
iPRD was set up last year to forge closer links between research activities conducted at the University and the commercial demands of partners in the pharmaceutical and fine chemicals industries.
To date, the group has signed around £5m of process development contracts in areas including catalysis, extraction and crystalisation control, and has built up links with 12 pharma and chemistry firms which provide funding through a subscription scheme.
The other key role for the new laboratory will be as a training facility for students enrolled in the University’s School of Process, Environmental and Materials Engineering’s (SPEME) MSc course in chemical process research and development.
The course is designed to cover all aspects of chemical manufacturing, from initial design and catalysis through to process design, purification and waste management to give scientists the skills to help meet global, such as lower cost drugs, renewable energy and reduced environmental impact.