Nanoform shrinks drug particles

Professor Edward Hæggström’s materials physics research group at the University of Helsinki has developed a method to shrink a drug particle without changing its chemical properties. The researchers have dubbed the process “nanonization”.

 “Simply put, it is a method which shrinks groups of molecules, or particles, without changing their chemical properties,” says Professor Edward Haeggström.

The method can help make drugs more effective: smaller particles dissolve easier and are more likely to fit into their exact target.

It is likely that more applications for nanonization will also be found, but Haeggström is not yet ready to talk about them.

 “We’ll start with one application. We can later start thinking about others.”

Jouko Yliruusi, professor of pharmaceutical chemistry, invented the idea of “shrinking” drug particles. To put the idea into practice, Yliruusi presented it to Hæggström to consult his expertise on materials physics. That was the beginning of a cooperation which has now lasted more than ten years, and has led to the creation of the Nanoform Finland Ltd. start-up which offers nanonization services.

Putting the fruits of research to use

 “I think this is a good demonstration of what the University community is capable of. We had the idea, the professional people to work on it and the opportunity to try different approaches,” says Professor Hæggström.

Developing an idea into a product that can be patented and that can be the basis of a business is not simple, and far from inexpensive. Helsinki Innovation Services (HIS) offered its expert help, and Tekes joined the project as a funder.

Professor Hæggström feels that it is a natural step to develop innovations from academic research into commercial products to benefit society. He does not think patenting infringes on the openness of research.

 “The patent process meant that we had to delay the publishing of our research results somewhat, but it wasn’t really a problem.”


What are we doing - and why

PROBLEM: Pharmaceuticals are indispensable, but many drug candidates do not work sufficiently and are thus discarded. Each year 200-300 drug development projects will commence. Only one drug in five makes it from clinical trials to the market, with the discovery costs amounting about one billion euros per approved drug. Of those failed 15-20% do not have proper bioavailability. This is the group of drug candidates we can give a second chance.

SOLUTION & KEY BENEFITS: Nanoform Finland, incorporated in 2015, has developed proprietary technology (Controlled Expansion of Supercritical Solutions - CESS) that allows drug particle nanonization from 200 nm down to less than 20 nm. This bottom-up method is based on recrystallization by controlling solubility of the API in supercritical carbon dioxide. The reduction of particle size increases API surface area in relation to its volume and thus dissolution rate and bioavailability of the drug – a feature evident especially with APIs from BCS classes II and IV. The technology is suitable for both chemical and protein based biological API:s. Favourable effects in preclinical studies has been shown.

Our innovation in pharmaceutical production technology improves dissolution and bioavailability of Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API). At best, we can double the success rate in drug development with our nanoformulation technology.

Our customers among the Top 10 Pharma find our patented technology better than current standard production methods. We have been asked by these companies to upscale our capabilities from R&D stage manufacturing to GMP production. Big Pharma is willing to invest into their drugs’ improved bioavailability, reduced side effects and extended IPR in new indications and ways of administration. At present, we are in the process of demonstrating our competence to two of our customers.


Fitted mean plasma concentration–time profile of Piroxicam in female Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats

Bioavailability of nanonized Piroxicam (Group 1) is better compared to standard drug (Group 3) and bulk raw material (Group 2).

Piroxicam (painkiller) has long half-life and slow absorption. Our animal tests confirm the results of our in vitro tests carried out with instrumentation developed and patented by Nanoform.

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