Innomech develops pilot-scale production system for Aston Particle Technologies


Automation consultancy GB Innomech (Innomech) has designed and developed a pilot-scale production system for Aston Particle Technologies (APT) that will help the company accelerate the commercialisation of its innovative dry particle coating technology for use within the pharmaceutical industry.

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APT is developing a one-step particle engineering technology to enable ‘challenging’ active pharmaceutical ingredients to be dry powder coated onto carrier particles: without needing heat, solvents or pressure.  Target applications for this processing technology breakthrough include the development of new dry powder inhaler formulations, improving the solubility of poorly water-soluble drugs, and developing taste-masking solutions for bitter-tasting drugs.

Innomech has designed the new easy-to-use system to process up to two kilograms of pharmaceutical powders which is a 100-fold increase on the capacity of APT’s existing lab-scale, proof of principle equipment.  The system provides a fluidised environment for particle contact and adsorption of cohesive material over coarse particles without the need for solvent and heat.  Pressure and temperature sensors, and an ultra-efficient heat exchanger are used to monitor and maintain the required process conditions.

A touchscreen integrated with a recipe-based control system allows operators to quickly and easily call up and store the required process conditions for specific production batches.  The system has been designed for easy cleaning and maintenance by minimising the surfaces and gas flow paths that come into contact with pharmaceutical powders, and it uses a HEPA filtration system to ensure operator safety.

“Innomech is the perfect system development partner for Aston Particle Technologies because of its extensive knowledge and experience in developing equipment for use in pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing environments.  The company’s new pilot-scale system will allow us to demonstrate the scalability of our technology and to carry out further process development studies for a range of pharmaceutical applications,” said Professor Afzal Mohammed, CTO and founder of Aston Particle Technologies.

APT is a spin-out from The School of Pharmacy at Aston University that was founded in 2016 with seed investment and a major Innovate UK grant.  The company’s CEO Dr Ian Smith, who is also one of its three founders, previously led the inhalation and device product development groups at both Glaxo and Pfizer.  He also helped to found and lead the Cambridge-based drug delivery company Meridica, which specialised in the development of inhaler and intranasal technologies, and was subsequently bought by Pfizer, one of the world’s five largest pharmaceutical companies.



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