Biological medicines are vital to many people with lifelong diseases such as diabetes. However, medicines are often difficult to manage and limit the patient's quality of life – something that hopefully is now possible to change in NextBioForm, a research centre that develops new, improved formulations.
About one third of all new medicines that are produced are so-called biological medicines. The term includes various vaccines, antibodies against cancer, insulin for diabetics and growth hormone. Unlike traditional medicines, these are produced in biological systems, i.e. that the active substance comes from a living cell or tissue. There are a number of benefits to these medicines – not least they give the opportunity to treat illnesses that have not previously had a cure.
“The benefits, compared to chemical medicines, are that they have high specificity, that is, the ability to meet the right cell or target molecule,” says Anna Fureby, a researcher at RISE.
Difficult to create stable formulations
However, despite the fact that biological medicines are often described as a large and important part of future medicines, there are some drawbacks. It is difficult, for example, to create stable formulations, which means that the medicines must be kept refrigerated – something that limits the patient's daily life.
“The medicine is also frequently taken by injection or drip, it must often be done in a health care environment, and it also affects the patient’s quality of life. This is why new, innovative solutions are needed for the preparation and administration of biological medicines,” says Anna Fureby.
Research centre will develop new solutions
The NextBioForm research centre is investing in the development of new solutions to address the problem. Here, RISE collaborates with a variety of partners from both industry and academia, to build knowledge and develop the methods required to develop medicines that are easier for the patient to use.
“At the centre we work, among others, on developing technology in order to measure stability in different ways, investigate what triggers destabilisation, and develop new formulation platforms,” says Anna Fureby, the centre director at NextBioForm.
Cooperation within the centre has already produced results. For example, there has been an international demand for a way of analysing how biological medicines behave when they come into contact with the patient’s blood. At NextBioForm, one of the participants in the SOLVE project has succeeded in developing a technology that allows these analyses to be carried out.
Another of the companies involved in the centre is Sobi. They develop biological medicines for rare diseases, that smaller pharmaceutical companies often cannot afford to invest in the development of. Here, a competence centre such as NextBioForm, can play a major role.
“We and other companies in the field depend on the expertise, services and techniques within pharmaceutical formulation in order to develop innovative and successful therapies. In biological medicines, this has been a scarce commodity and we are very positive that NextBioForm will now focus on this area,” says Jonas Fransson, Director Drug Product Development at Sobi and chairman of the steering group for NextBioForm.
NextBioForm cooperates with MAX IV in Lund, a facility for experiments with controlled, high-intensity X-rays. Thanks to a close cooperation between the researchers linked to NextBioForm and MAX IV new research findings can be developed that provide even more in-depth knowledge about the formulation of biological medicines.