Published: 09 April 2013

Prizewinning process breaks new ground for pharmaceutical industry

A radical and ultra-efficient process developed by a consortium of engineers, including researchers at the University of Surrey, is helping to drastically improve the manufacturing processes involved in creating pharmaceutical tablets…

“The basic principles of making pharmaceutical tablets haven’t changed in 200 years – until now,” says Professor Jonathan Seville, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences.

The endurance of such principles puts the recent achievements of the University’s chemical engineers into perspective. Ensuring manufacturing consistency, reducing costs by up to 20%, shrinking the process equipment footprint by one-tenth and bringing capital costs down by one-third – this is work that, for once, warrants use of the term ‘revolutionary’.

“We have demonstrated that it is possible to move away from time-consuming and expensive batch processing – essentially ‘cookery’ - to a fully integrated and closely controlled process which gives excellent product consistency. The process has a much smaller footprint and lower environmental emissions per unit of product, while being much more flexible in operation,” explains Professor Seville.

Applying chemical engineering principles to the traditionally risk-averse pharmaceutical industry, the researchers are helping to bring manufacturing processes into the 21st century. The project has integrated the manufacturing expertise of the University with advanced process technologies, advanced measurement technologies and information management software provided by a host of research partners.

The resulting process improvements mean that high quality pharmaceutical products can be manufactured at a low cost within the UK.

In 2012, the team’s efforts were justly recognised with the top prize at the annual Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) awards ceremony. The award was presented to the consortium, led by GlaxoSmithKline and including GEA Group, Siemens, Sagentia, Newcastle University, the University of Warwick and the University of Surrey.

David Brown, IChemE CEO observed: “Chemical engineers are working all over the world on innovative projects and finding solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing society today: a growing demand for secure and sustainable energy, access to clean and plentiful water supplies, food and nutrition, and societal health and well-being.”

"The IChemE awards give us a platform to recognise some of the best work taking place all over the world throughout the chemical and process engineering community.”

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