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Warwick graduate invents revolutionary device for testing drugs

A scientist from Kazakhstan who works for Medherant Ltd - a spin-out of the University of Warwick which produces next-generation drug delivery patches - has invented a revolutionary device for testing transdermal drugs more quickly, efficiently and accurately.

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Dr Gabit Nurumbetov is the company’s Principal Scientist and a Warwick graduate, and he has developed an instrument which can test the release of drug from a transdermal patch in a fraction of the time it takes when using the standard equipment utilised by the pharmaceutical industry.

The device is an improved, miniaturised and multiplexed version of a Franz cell – a device commonly used to test transdermal drugs – which allows Medherant to test 108 formulations of a drug per day as compared to about 12 in the same period for traditional Franz cells.

The diffusion cell, which is patented by Medherant, is made of chemically resistant engineering plastic (such as that used on Formula 1 cars). It provides more accurate and efficient testing of different product formulations, enabling the company to conduct comprehensive feasibility tests on a drug in just three months - other pharmaceutical companies might take a year.

Originally from Shymkent, Dr Nurumbetov graduated from the Kazakh-British Technical University and came to the University of Warwick eight years ago to study for a PhD in Polymer Chemistry.

Dr Nurumbetov worked closely with Professor Stefan Bon and Professor David Haddleton in the University of Warwick’s Department of Chemistry. After completing his PhD, he was employed as a researcher in Professor Haddleton’s group, working on improving polymerisation performance for industrial partners.

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“Having graduated from the Kazakh-British Technical University in 2009, I was keen to continue studies in one of the leading global universities,” commented Dr Gabit Nurumbetov. “My application seemed interesting to Professor Bon at the University of Warwick. Following a successful interview, he offered me the opportunity of becoming a PhD student within his group.

“Being a member of the Bon Lab for three years and the Haddleton Group as a postdoctoral researcher for two and a half years, I had a chance to broaden my knowledge and learn how to apply it to real-life applications.”

Dr Nurumbetov and Professor Haddleton were both interested in using novel polymers for developing adhesive technologies for application to medical patches.

In 2015, Professor Haddleton founded Medherant – Dr Nurumbetov being the founding scientist, and this year becoming the company’s Principal Scientist.

Medherant and Dr Nurumbetov developed the TEPI Patch® – a thin, flexible adhesive patch which can consistently deliver a steady, targeted, high dose of many different types of drugs through the skin. Depending on the requirements for a particular therapy, the patch may be designed to deliver drug for 12, 24 or 72 hours, or even longer.

The TEPI Patch out-performs other drug delivery patches currently on the market with the amount of drug that can be loaded (up to 30% of the patch weight). This provides the opportunity to improve the efficacy of the product. The TEPI Patch also reduces drug wastage compared to other patch products, with only about 20% of the drug left in the patch after use in some cases. The low amount of residual drug makes disposal much more environmentally friendly and potentially removes the opportunity for abuse.

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“The transition from the academic environment to Medherant was challenging, but it has been a very exciting experience, said Dr Nurumbetov. “As a member of a spin-out company, you always need to consider some aspects of everyday routine which you have never thought of as a researcher in academic laboratories. Parameters such as costs of chemicals, energy consumption, waste disposal, laboratory supply, have become an everyday part of the equation.

“The interesting part is that you are encouraged to increase company’s productivity by improving conventional processes and instruments. That is how Medherant’s high-throughput diffusion test system was designed. After a couple experiments with traditional Franz cell, we spotted an opportunity to invent a device that allowed us to increase the speed of our product testing by up to ten times - simultaneously reducing the cost of our operations.”

Dr Nurumbetov’s high-throughput device is at the core of Medherant’s sector-leading R&D capabilities and has enabled the company to test over 50 drugs for compatibility in their TEPI Patch adhesive polymers over a 24-month period – a feat which would have been unachievable with a small team without his innovation.

The company has just finished performing a feasibility study for a large European pharmaceutical company using its high throughput system.

Medherant has also recently announced that they have signed an agreement with a leading Japanese transdermal patch company - one of the world’s largest patch developers and manufacturers - to evaluate the potential of its TEPI Patch technology to deliver one of their drugs which they had previously not been able to formulate as a drug-in-adhesive patch.

Medherant is using its innovative TEPI Patches to develop a variety of products to treat pain, including ibuprofen and lidocaine. The Company plans to license the products for launch onto the global marketplace (following successful clinical trials and regulatory approval) in the next 2-3 years.

Notes:

Image 1: Dr Gabit Nurumbetov with a classic Franz cell (above left) and his diffusion cell device (below right) - click for high res

Image 2: Dr Gabit Nurumbetov in the process of testing drugs - click for high res

Image 3: Dr Gabit Nurumbetov (right) with Professor Dave Haddleton (left) - click for high res

18 October 2017

Further information contact:

Luke Walton, International Press Manager

+44 (0) 7824 540 863

+44 (0) 2476 150 868

L dot Walton dot 1 at warwick dot ac dot uk