Japan researchers look to upset apple cart of pharma manufacturing costs

University of Tokyo lead researcher Shu Kobayashi

Using equipment the size of a card table and techniques borrowed from the oil industry, Japan researchers believe they have found a method of producing drugs at a fraction of the current costs.

The idea concerns continuous-flow synthesis, something the pharmaceutical industry has found difficult to apply to synthesizing active pharmaceutical ingredients. With their method, researchers produced 10 grams of rolipram, a drug being tested with other methods for treating depression and improving brain function.

The University of Tokyo lead researcher, Shu Kobayashi, told Nikkei, "This process is going to be widely adopted for drugs and fine chemicals." The current method uses a batch system that now requires a series of huge tanks that in turn creates a need for an even larger production facility.

With continuous-flow synthesis, size is not an issue and operations are easily automated, also cutting down the time involved. The researchers said the system is particularly appropriate for the more complicated cancer drugs.

In a published study, the researchers said the system they developed could lower production costs significantly.

- here's the story from Nikkei