Biopharma and Aston University to improve freeze drying of biological drugs


Aston University has recently entered into a CASE (Co-operative Awards in Science and Engineering) project awarded by Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) with freeze drying company Biopharma Technology Ltd to understand the parameters that are important for achieving successful freeze drying of biological material where activity is retained.

In recent years, large numbers of protein molecules have been made available as potential cures or treatments of a wide variety of diseases. However, these molecules are unstable in the aqueous environment, so most require storage to prevent damage before use. The most common method of storage is freezing, but this requires a cold chain of storage and transport which increases the cost of biological drugs over small molecules that can be stored at room temperature.  In addition, stabilising biologics by freezing is only effective in many cases for up to two years, so a method that increased stability to enable longer storage would also reduce costs as less material would need to be discarded.

Dr Andrew Ingham, Lecturer in Pharmacy and Drug Delivery at Aston’s Pharmacy School is attempting overcome the negative effects that freeze drying has on changing a biological material’s internal structure. Using Ultrasound as a method of controlled agitation, he is able to retain a higher level of biological activity when combined with an analytical feedback loop during drying.

This project is a great opportunity to collaborate and explore freeze dying techniques in greater depth"

Developing methods which can be used by the pharmaceutical industry to reduce costs and extend the types of biological material that can be stored in the dry state at room temperature could have a significant impact within society. It could have wide application in the UK ranging from improved freezing of food, embryos for IVF (human and animals) diagnostic kits and biologic drugs to name but a few. There is also potential for great impact in developing countries where currently there cold chain supply is not possible so most biologics cannot be supplied at all.

Dr Ingham said: ‘This project is a great opportunity to collaborate and explore freeze drying techniques in greater depth and provide a unique opportunity to translate our research into practical benefit to the biopharmaceutical industry and beyond.’ 

To find out more about how your business can benefit from working with Aston University, please email bpu@aston.ac.uk or call 0121 204 4242.