A newly marketed invention enables pharmaceutical companies to encapsulate medicines with very high precision. The resulting microparticles all have exactly the same size and medicine content, allowing extremely precise control of drug delivery, which is crucial in applications such as asthma respirators.
The Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) spin-off EmulTech recently launched the prototype for the new production unit, called INFINITY, to suppliers and customers. “The name INFINITY is a light-hearted reference to the unlimited possibilities of the system, and its ability to produce continuously,” according to Fränk de Jong, CEO and co-founder of EmulTech.
Encapsulating medicines is done by mixing oil – containing the active ingredient – with water. Because oil is not soluble in water, the mixing process creates droplets of oil dispersed in the water. But the droplets formed using the conventional technology don’t all have the same size, meaning they don’t contain the same amount of medicine. To ensure consistent delivery of medicine, manufacturers filter out spheres that are too large or too small, which can account for a production loss of around 40 per cent.
The production loss is reduced to less than 1 per cent with the new EmulTech technology, which uses a different principle. The oil mixed with medicine and water is mixed in microscopic channels in a precisely controlled process; the water extrudes tiny droplets which then harden into spheres.
Producers can adjust the size of the spheres as they wish, within the range of 1 micrometer and 1 millimeter. The spheres can also be designed to deliver their payload after a specific time, or at a specific temperature or pH level, ensuring that the medicine is delivered at exactly the right place – for instance in the intestine and not in the stomach.
The technology might be particularly useful in production of asthma respirators, where all the medicine particles need to be of exactly the right size. If the particles are too small, they will penetrate too far into the lungs. If they are too large, they will remain trapped in the throat.
In the case of medicines that need to be injected, patients might look forward to thinner needles being used for injection of medicines containing evenly sized, small particles.
Until now, EmulTech has used their technology to produce microparticles for pharmaceutical companies. With INFINITY, which has the size of a small refrigerator, companies will be able to do their own production.