Colorcon and Aston work to improve drug effectiveness

Drug delivery

Aston University is working on a project with global pharmaceutical excipient company Colorcon Limited, funded by the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council, to examine whether the excipients used in common drugs have an effect on biological responses.

Excipients are substances that are added to drugs to give them a suitable consistency or form, which were once believed not to influence the biological activity of a drug. However, research at Aston undertaken in 2011 demonstrated that a common excipient, polyethylene glycol 8000, influences drug permeability, gene expression and biological response.

As a result of these findings, Professor Yvonne Perrie and Dr Afzal Mohammed from Aston’s Pharmacy School, along with Professor Rajabi-Siahboomi from Colorcon, collaboratively developed a project, and secured funding, to investigate this finding further by determining the effect of excipients during drug absorption. This project will aid the development of improved dosage forms, which will have multiple advantages including reduced drug toxicity, lower drug loading and most significantly, enhanced drug uptake, in medicines such as antibiotics and anti-cancer molecules.

Colorcon is a world leader in the development, supply and technical support of formulated film coating systems, modified release technologies and functional excipients for the pharmaceutical industry. Through entering this partnership, the company hopes to provide better understanding and enhanced support to their customers by developing improved medicines. This has the potential to expand the market into a number of areas, but particularly in relation to the formulation and delivery of more challenging drugs using excipients that are inert to the biological membranes or excipients that may potentially enhance drug absorption or targeting.

Colorcon has previous experience of working with Aston on a collaborative research project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, to develop existing forms of fast disintegrating tablet technology. Colorcon were keen to work with Aston again on this project as Professor Yvonne Perrie and Dr Afzal Mohammed have a wealth of expertise in determining drug permeability and excipient effects, as well as having developed novel assays for testing drug absorption not currently available elsewhere. Aston also has access to a broad range of analytical and biological techniques, with expertise that could support Colorcon to develop new and more effective excipients.

Both Dr Mohammed and Professor Perrie are delighted to have the opportunity to continue their collaborations with Dr Rajabi-Siahboomi at Colorcon. The previous partnership was extremely successful and they hope the new studentship to study pediatric friendly formulations, which is half funded by Aston’s Centre for Children and Young People based in the School of Life and Health Sciences and half funded by Colorcon, will emphasise their successful working relationship with the company.

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