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Researchers Find New Methodology to Improve Pharma Manufacturing Process

A new tool could offer the potential for producers of valuable chemicals and pharmaceuticals to institute an entirely new process of manufacturing.

pharmaceuticals factoryIt could be a significant development in a manufacturing sector where R&D can take years and costs millions with limited prospects for producing a return.

The average corporate member of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America invested 24% of domestic sales into R&D in 2015. On average, only 12% of drug candidates that enter clinical testing are eventually approved for use by patients. It also typically takes at least 10 years and more than $2.6 billion to bring new medicine from the research pipeline to patients.

Soo Khean Teoh, a scientist at the Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences at A*STAR in Singapore, has developed a methodology to measure the feasibility of switching from batch to continuous processing. In batch processing, chemicals are made in smaller quantities at a slower pace, whereas with continuous processing, all stages of chemical reactions occur simultaneously, allowing products to be extracted nonstop. This makes manufacturing of such chemicals faster, more energy-efficient, and able to be produced in smaller installation facilities. The problem is that it’s difficult for manufacturers to know if switching to new processes will pay off.

“Our methodology makes it easier to decide to process or to kill the idea, minimizing wasted effort.”

“The biggest challenge is that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution for changing from batch to continuous methods, because of the complex and varied chemistries involved,” said Teoh, according to Phys.org.

The new methodology helps users better understand the processes in question, and presents a framework for how to brainstorm about the benefits and to arrive at better decisions in a faster manner. The researchers’ method screens chemical processes to uncover key business requirements and pitfalls, then breaks down candidates into a flow chart analysis. From there, manufacturers can then identify factors like possible equipment, control schemes, and plant configurations.

According to ManufacturingChemist.com, continuous processing for drugs has the potential to increase efficiencies and product quality and consistency, while reducing overall costs for operations. Yet manufacturers can have difficulty determining whether a move to continuous processing will prove to be a worth investment. The article says that despite “clear advantages and real potential,” the adoption of continuous processes is proceeding relatively slowly.

“Our methodology makes understanding the process much clearer, especially to the chemists and engineers dealing with the synthesis…It makes it easier to decide to process or to kill the idea, minimizing wasted effort,” said Teoh.


About Craig Guillot

Craig Guillot
Craig Guillot is a business writer based in New Orleans, La. His work has appeared in Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur, CNNMoney.com and CNBC.com. You can read more about his work at www.craigdguillot.com.