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Key process to be modernised in production of lifesaving drugs, food preservation

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The process, called ‘lyophilisation,’ removes water at low temperature and pressure

A consortium of experts is working to modernise a process that is used in making a wide range of products, from freeze-dried space foods to lifesaving wonder drugs.

The process, called ‘lyophilisation,’ removes water at low temperature and pressure. Lyophilisation is needed for products that would be damaged if they were dried by heating, but it can be slow, energy-intensive and expensive. A new 10-year road map to identify the improvements that are needed in lyophilisation is being published by the Advanced Lyophilization Technology Hub, or LyoHUB, at Purdue University.

One needed improvement is the introduction of disruptive new technologies that would dramatically increase the efficiency of lyophilisation, said Elizabeth Topp, a professor in Purdue’s Department of Industrial and Physical Pharmacy who co-leads the consortium with Alina Alexeenko, a professor in the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

“Ultimately, we’d like to help bring about high-quality, lower cost, more readily available pharmaceuticals and food products that are made with lyophilisation or related new technologies,” Topp said. “The Lyophilization Technology Roadmap presents the collective view of trends, drivers and technology development opportunities of over 100 industrial, academic and government experts working in this area.”

The LyoHUB leadership team also includes Michael Pikal, a professor of pharmaceutics at the University of Connecticut; and Steve Nail, senior research scientist at Baxter Biopharma Solutions. They provided leadership in producing the road map with Steve Shade, managing director of Purdue’s Center for Advanced Manufacturing, and more than 100 experts from across the country.

The road map identifies key factors driving change, gaps in technology that require research solutions, industry needs, educational roles and regulatory issues impacting the field over the next decade. It was developed with input from the pharmaceutical and foods industries, lyophilisation equipment and instrumentation manufacturers, related industries, academia and government agencies.

Instead of the current batch method, researchers envision a system that runs continuously, where raw materials are fed into one end and finished products roll out of the other end. Such an innovation would lead to dramatic improvements in efficiency.

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