By Pádraig Hoare
Scientists at the University of Limerick plan to use microscopic technology to revolutionise the way humans absorb some medicines.
Dr Luis Padrela, a lecturer in industrial biochemistry in UL’s Bernal Institute, and his team, along with Enterprise Ireland, is to tackle one of the biggest challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry — the solubility of some medicines.
Enterprise Ireland’s commercialisation fund programme has invested nearly €500,000 to enable Dr Padrela and his team to do the work.
The researchers said while pharmaceuticals are continually developing new drugs, seven out of ten of those drugs never reach the patient. This is not because they are ineffective at treating disease but because they are not soluble enough to be absorbed in the body, said the researchers.
Dr Padrela said the key to unlocking the problem lies in nanotechnology. “When poorly soluble drugs are produced at microscopic levels, or nanoparticles, they dissolve much more easily and can be targeted more effectively at disease. However, the manufacture of these nanotech drugs on a commercial scale remains a major challenge. That is the problem that we intend to solve.”
The project, which will run for two years, aims to establish a technology-based start-up close to the end of the duration. This new technology will meet the need of the next generation of nano-medicines by generating faster-working drugs and leading to significant patient benefit, said the researchers.