The Next Frontier in Molecular Engineering

A new trend is emerging in the pharmaceutical industry: continuous drug manufacturing. Traditionally, drugs are manufactured batch by batch, which is slow and inefficient. In fact, the FDA estimates that $50 billion is lost each year in manufacturing costs due to inefficient processes. Alternatively, the continuous manufacturing process allows drugs to be made with little to no interruption, resulting in lower manufacturing costs, as well as more reliable, higher quality drugs. And ultimately, consumers will see an increase in patient access through price reductions.

Blair Brettmann, assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Materials Science Engineering, currently focuses her research on novel drug manufacturing processes. Her goal is to improve the continuous manufacturing process already on the market and develop a drug production system that can scale up for commercial use. Large pharmaceutical companies are sure to take notice of her work in order to capitalize on a more efficient manufacturing process.

In addition to process work, Brettmann is growing drugs in her lab that have more effective properties than those currently on the market. Rather than delivering drug powders in tablet form, she is crystalizing drugs to make them more digestible by the stomach.

“The challenge with some drugs is they are not very water soluble, meaning they aren’t easily digested,” said Brettmann. “By creating a crystal form, we are seeing that they are more easily broken down and therefore more effective in treating symptoms of disease.”

Uniquely, Brettmann has a more holistic approach to her work, building drugs with the end in mind – like healthcare savings or drug efficacy. Rather than studying each molecule individually, Brettmann looks at the solution in its entirety. This is where her approach differs from what other researchers are doing in her field.

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