The traditional, small-molecule pharma company invests a "shockingly low" portion of its capital in product development, says Bernhardt Trout, director at the Novartis-MIT Center for Continuous Manufacturing. Basic manufacturing technologies have not changed for decades. Trout and others spoke recently at an MIT roundtable discussion on the future of manufacturing.
Trout suggested a streamlined drug-approval process would help motivate industry innovation.
The FDA, of course, has acknowledged the same. Its planned restructuring is a strategy aimed at getting drugs out of the lab and to patients more quickly.
But those at the MIT event have additional ideas. Among them: nanotechnology. Advocates are clear that the technology holds promise to improve drug-making as well as the making of other kinds of products. And they admit that expertise and the technology tools needed to develop nano-manufacturing tools are among the current stumbling blocks.
But looking past these immediate--and ultimately solvable--problems looms a larger one: integrating nanotechnology with manufacturing processes. So says Martin Culpepper, a nanotech manufacturing toolmaker. Culpepper, an MIT associate professor of mechanical engineering, likens his lab to an apprenticeship. "It takes a long time to learn how to do this stuff properly," he says in Azonano.com.
Culpepper and Trout agree that advances in academic research are especially critical to move industry.
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