The chemicals producer is working with Harvard, Yale, and Swiss university EPFL on a project to prevent nanoparticles from forming hard-to-dissolve crystals.
Poor solubility of nanoparticles can prevent the uptake of drugs in the human body and is often the reason pharma companies abandon new drug pipelines.
The industry-academia partnership has created a supersonic spray-drying process to produce stable and soluble amorphous (not crystalline) nanoparticles. Using a microfluid nebulizer, drugs are first dissolved in a solvent and then exposed to a stream of air moving at 600 m/second – almost twice the speed of sound.
"The high-speed air flow enables fast evaporation of the solvent, which leaves no time for the molecules to arrange themselves in the form of a crystal. Molecules therefore arrange themselves randomly in an amorphous structure and are ten times easier to dissolve," said BASF research manager Christian Holtze.
The increased solubility brings higher uptake of active ingredients, making the tech useful to manufacturers of pharmaceuticals and dietary supplements.
This is particularly valuable to pharmacology, the food industry and crop protection.
"This system offers exceptionally good control over the composition, structure and the size of particles, enabling the formation of new materials," said Esther Amstad, a professor at EPFL (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne).
"This milestone finding is a result of strong collaborative efforts between industry and academic institutions to work closely on scientific challenges," said Marc Schroeder, head of the North American Center for Research on Advanced Materials at BASF. "The interdisciplinary approach has helped find a scientific explanation to an unexpected experimental finding, thus enabling broader potential applications of this technology."
BASF is headquartered in Florham Park, New Jersey, and is an affiliate of German company BASF SE, Ludwigshafen, Germany. It is acknowledged as a leader in the solubility enhancement market, followed by fellow big players Abitec and Gattefossé.