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Queen’s University Belfast and Terumo Blood and Cell Technologies develop next generation packaging

Queen's University Belfast and Terumo Blood and Cell Technologies (Terumo BCT) recently began their Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) to develop next generation pharmaceutical packaging at Terumo BCT's facility in Larne Northern Ireland.

Lucy Finlay
The project aims to extend shelf life and reduce waste for intravenous drug delivery systems. [Above: KTP Associate, Lucy Finlay]

The 24-month project, co-funded by UK Research and Innovation through Innovate UK and Invest NI, aims to deliver the next generation of a product packaging system designed for intravenous drug systems.

The proposed product is a drug container that can extend the shelf life of pharmaceutical products without the need for secondary packaging (over-pouch), reducing waste and improving manufacturing efficiency. Today, semi-permeable containers using materials such as polyvinyl chloride or polypropylene are used extensively to store intravenous drug products. Through this research, Terumo BCT seeks to better understand how using multilayers and optimising polymerisation steps affect these materials, with the goal to significantly improve water vapour and gas transmission rates, which influence product expiry. By developing and engineering new modified materials, the company hopes to realise significant improvements in shelf life, which would improve value for healthcare customers.

KTP projects bring together qualified candidates, university or research organisations and UK businesses with the aim to help businesses improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills within the UK knowledge base.

This KTP project benefits from the strategic input of a highly experienced KTN Knowledge Transfer Adviser, Stephen McComb, who said: "I am really looking forward to seeing how the KTP can bring together the insight of leading Queen’s University Belfast experts with the challenges Terumo BCT hopes to address. The goal is for new products that touch the lives of more patients worldwide and the creation of new product lines for the Larne plant. This KTP is a fantastic opportunity for an outstanding graduate to be stretched, challenged and developed by the company and the leading academics from Queen’s. I fully expect to see new products emerge that will improve the lives of patients and a future leader for the healthcare and manufacturing industry.”

Natasha McKee, Project Supervisor, Terumo BCT, supports product development activities, assessing the complex interaction of drug and material selection. “Collaborating with the vastly experienced academic team at Queen’s University will support the accelerated learning of the Innovation and Development team in Larne. This will advance our knowledge in packaging system innovation, specifically material science related to product development.”

Lucy Finlay joined the company as a KTP Associate and is working collaboratively with the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s University Belfast. This project is providing the unique opportunity for Finlay to bring her engineering qualifications to help solve an industry problem.

“I applied for this program to apply the knowledge I gained during my PhD into industry,” says Finlay. “The project will drive innovation and help enhance polymer science expertise at Terumo Blood and Cell Technologies. This is an exciting opportunity to lead a project that bridges academic research and business to turn a strategic innovation idea into reality.”

Terumo Blood and Cell Technologies is a medical technology company specializing in a portfolio of technology, software and services for blood component collection, therapeutic apheresis and cell and gene therapy technologies. It also manufactures pharmaceutical solutions and provides contract manufacturing services. The company has over 40 years of experience in the manufacturing of pharma solutions and most recently of intravenous (IV) drug containers. Products produced in Larne span a broad range of therapy areas including traditional intravenous (IV) therapies used in fluid replacement, epidurals and heart surgeries; antibiotics; anticoagulants used in blood technologies; blood component storage solutions; and perfusion therapy solutions.

Professors David Jones and Gavin Andrews, Academic Supervisors from Queen’s University Belfast, bring extensive knowledge of methods to test and develop solutions around permeation, leaching and testing reactivity, as well as experience in pharmaceutical engineering to manufacture prototype products and to characterise the interactions between components that typically indicate stability issues.

Professor Jones commented on the partnership: “We are absolutely delighted to be working on this collaborative project with Terumo BCT, where we can use our formulation science experience to provide a solution to this considerable problem.”


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