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International team pioneer new drug analysis method

Posted October 1, 2015

An international team of scientists co-led by The University of Western Australia’s Associate Professor Vincent Wallace has been working with a major biopharmaceutical company to investigate new ways to characterise protein formulations.

Image credit: Flickr

Image credit: Flickr

The team, which includes scientists from the Universities of Cambridge and Sheffield and industry partner MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, has published its research in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

The researchers explain how terahertz (THz) spectroscopy is used to better understand the formulation of monoclonal antibody drugs to make medicines that can be used to treat a number of different diseases including autoimmunity, oncology, neuroscience and infection.

Terahertz spectroscopy detects the properties of matter with electromagnetic fields that are in the frequency range between a few hundred gigahertz and several terahertz.

“The biopharmaceutical industry are experts at packing monoclonal antibody drug into a suitably small volume to give patients the option to self-administer by subcutaneous injection at home,” Professor Wallace said.

“However, as you increase the concentration of some antibody drugs, they can have a tendency to stick together, which the industry overcomes by formulation. Understanding of the exact role of water during formulation would be ideally complementary to the science underpinning that drug development process.”

By using a special technique called terahertz time domain spectroscopy or THz-TDS, Professor Wallace and co-authors were able to understand why certain methods worked better than others.

“Pretty much everything in biology is surrounded by water,” Professor Wallace said. “Using terahertz time domain spectroscopy allows us to better understand the interaction of water and proteins, which is relevant to high concentration formulations. The biopharmaceutical industry may then be able to transfer this new analytical method into its drug development activities.”

The research presents an exciting opportunity for UWA and follows the recent installation of a new commercial THz system in UWA’s School of Physics.  Funded through the Australian Research Council via a Linkage Infrastructure grant, it is the first of its type in WA.

“We are just starting to peel away some of the layers of this exciting field and this equipment will not only assist in the work described above but in many other medical and non-medical applications,” Professor Wallace said.

Source: The University of Western Australia

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