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Speeding up drug production saves millions

The world’s pharmaceutical industry is fiercely competitive yet production of new drugs is often hampered by an increasingly complex and costly research and development stage.

Professor Ian Sutherland from the Advanced Bioprocessing Centre team at Brunel University London has taken a pioneering approach to simplifying the process of research and development, purification and manufacture of drugs for pharmaceutical industries.

This has meant reducing the cost of bringing new drugs to market, increasing profit and minimising environmental impact of waste by 15%.

Building on 20 years’ experience, Prof Sutherland and his team have been the first to develop Counter-Current Chromatography (CCC) in the UK, a type of separation process which uses a two-phase liquid stream. Dormant since it was first developed in the 1960s, Prof Sutherland revived its use and went on to prove the technology was significantly faster, reliable and produced higher resolution separations of a wide range of molecules.

To raise visibility of CCC’s performance the team organised the first conference series in 2000 at Brunel, it has since been hosted in in Beijing, Tokyo, Bethesda (USA), Rio de Janiero, Lyon and Hangzhou, also in China.

In 2003, they set up Dynamic Extractions, a spin out company, and renamed CCC as High Performance Counter-current Chromatography (HPCCC). This meant theycould go commercial and aim for a 10% share of the $1 billion market.

Brunel invested £1 million in a new Advanced Bioprocessing Centre which opened in 2006. Dynamic Extractions focussed on sales and production, whereas the centre developed new technology and equipment.