Pharmaceutical companies are one step closer to being able to peer inside a capsule or tablet and analyze its exact composition at high speed while in the packaging. LiteThru Limited (Warrington, England), a spin-out company of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC), has successfully secured a £750K (US$1.125 million) investment, enabling the company to commercialize the patented technology.
Monitoring production and checking the quality of manufactured medicinal drugs can be a slow and expensive process using techniques such as liquid chromatography, near-infrared, or X-ray analysis. During manufacture it is often difficult to monitor the process to ensure the correct formulation is produced, and after manufacture it can take several weeks for a batch of drugs to be tested and released to market; both have enormous impact on the cost of drugs. LiteThru's technology enables non-invasive, accurate analysis of capsules, tablets, powders and solutions in less than one second. LiteThru's innovative approach is set to revolutionize pharmaceutical quality control and formulation development processes on an international scale.
Pioneered at STFC's Central Laser Facility, LiteThru's technology stems from a new form of spectroscopy, known as spatially offset Raman spectroscopy (SORS), which enables the sensitive probing of objects such as capsules and tablets in blister packs or bottles without opening them. This concept is also being researched for its potential to diagnose breast cancer and detect bone disease non invasively.
Darren Andrews, chief executive at LiteThru Ltd., said, "This investment is the result of successful trials with several large pharmaceutical companies and will be used to build our first rapid analysis machines. The industry response has been strong because the technology can cut the costs of mandatory testing as well as reduce manufacturing lead-time. This is a superb example of how cutting edge science can provide direct solutions for key industrial problems."
Professor Pavel Matousek, lead inventor at STFC and technical director of LiteThru commented, "This is a very exciting time for us at STFC and LiteThru. I am particularly pleased with the vibrant and stimulating environment at STFC enabling us to make effective use of new ideas and discoveries for the direct benefit of our society."
The novel SORS spectroscopic technique, developed for medical and pharmaceutical applications, enables substances beneath surfaces to be identified. The concept and the research leading to SORS has created a new area of laser spectroscopy. This new technique has been recognised by two international scientific awards (2002 & 2006 Meggers' Award) from the Society for Applied Spectroscopy. Three related scientific papers on this technology were recently selected as three of the 16 most ground-breaking papers published in Applied Spectroscopy over the last 50 years.