Published on 19/03/2024
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Doctor holding tablets in their hands
  • Aston University and medicine manufacturer Catalent formed a Knowledge Transfer Partnership to identify more effective formulation additives
  • The new selection matrix makes choosing the right additive quicker and the medicine development process shorter
  • The project has been rated as ‘outstanding’ by Innovate UK

A partnership between Aston University and contract medicine manufacturer Catalent has led to a faster process to identify the best ingredients for optimal medicine formulations, and has been rated as outstanding by Innovate UK.

Catalent is a global leader in enabling pharma, biotechnology and consumer health partners to optimise product development, launch and full life-cycle supply for patients around the world. Its proprietary Zydis orally dissolving tablet (ODT) technology enables the absorption of drugs or active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) through the mouth tissues, which is much faster than absorption through the gut. However, many APIs have poor pre-gastric absorption and need to be combined with suitable excipients, or additives, to bind the active ingredients and speed up the process of dissolving and absorbing via the pre-gastric route. 

Identifying suitable excipients for the formulation is difficult, and so the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between Aston University and Catalent was set up to develop a faster, more efficient approach.

A KTP is a three-way collaboration between a business, an academic partner and a highly qualified researcher, known as a KTP associate. The UK-wide programme helps businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills. Aston University is a sector leading KTP provider, with 80% of its completed projects being graded as very good or outstanding by Innovate UK, the national body.

The project was led by Aston University’s Afzal Mohammed, professor of pharmaceutics in the School of Pharmacy and associate dean (impact and knowledge exchange) for the College of Health and Life Sciences, who has expertise in the design and optimisation of orally dissolving tablet formulation. He was supported by other colleagues from Aston Pharmacy School including Dr Daniel Kirby, whose main area of research is the formulation of age-appropriate medicines for the extremes of life, Dr Affiong Iyire, who has research expertise in mucosal drug delivery, and Dr Raj Badhan, who is a pharmacokinetics expert with research interests in analytical approaches to predict oral drug absorption. Dr Ruba Bnyan, who has a master’s degree and a PhD in pharmaceutical drug formulation, as well as experience in cell-based models, was the KTP associate for the project.

The KTP partners developed a selection matrix, whereby, based on the API properties, Catalent formulation scientists can quickly identify excipients that will improve the absorption of the drug through the mouth. Adopting this novel tool allows for quicker and more efficient drug development and has the potential to increase the number of Zydis ODT candidates in the pipeline for future development. 

Desmond Wong, product development supervisor at Catalent, said:

“This project has exceeded our initial expectations and has the potential to accelerate product development for our clients. Our strong relationship with the Aston University team on this KTP project highlights the transformative potential of collaborative research and its impact on pharmaceutical innovation.”

Professor Mohammed said:

“This has been a very successful project, which has been rated as ‘outstanding’ by Innovate UK. We plan to put it forward for a KTP award and are looking forward to continuing working with Catalent on our next KTP project.”

For more information on the KTP visit the webpage.

Notes to editors

About Aston University

For over a century, Aston University’s enduring purpose has been to make our world a better place through education, research and innovation, by enabling our students to succeed in work and life, and by supporting our communities to thrive economically, socially and culturally.

Aston University’s history has been intertwined with the history of Birmingham, a remarkable city that once was the heartland of the Industrial Revolution and the manufacturing powerhouse of the world.

Born out of the First Industrial Revolution, Aston University has a proud and distinct heritage dating back to our formation as the School of Metallurgy in 1875, the first UK College of Technology in 1951, gaining university status by Royal Charter in 1966, and becoming the Guardian University of the Year in 2020.

Building on our outstanding past, we are now defining our place and role in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (and beyond) within a rapidly changing world.

For media inquiries in relation to this release, contact Helen Tunnicliffe, Press and Communications Manager, on (+44) 7827 090240 or email:

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