Accelerating the delivery of new drugs to patients

Tailor-made crystals of Paracetamol for better performance in patients.

A project aimed at accelerating the delivery of new drugs to patients, led by the University of Strathclyde and Glasgow School of Art, has received a grant of £1.9 million.

The funding has been awarded to ARTICULAR, a project which will use advances in digital technology to help reduce the time it takes to get new drugs to market by harnessing the potential of large data sets and Machine Learning – techniques which enable computers to improve performance progressively on a specific task. The grant has been made by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). 

It is currently difficult to avoid ‘starting at the beginning’ for every new drug that needs to be manufactured but new medicines are currently doubling in cost every nine years. ARTICULAR seeks to develop novel machine learning approaches that learn from past and present manufacturing data to create new knowledge that aids in crucial manufacturing decisions and lead to higher quality medicines for patients.

The project underlines Glasgow’s reputation as a centre of innovation and cutting-edge research. It will involve the Strathclyde-led, EPSRC-funded Future Manufacturing Research Hub in Continuous Manufacturing and Advanced Crystallisation (CMAC). The Glasgow School of Art’s School of Simulation and Visualisation (SimVis) is leading the Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality elements of the project. 

Principal Investigator for ARTICULAR, Dr Blair Johnston, Reader at Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences, said: “The University of Strathclyde is pleased to be continuing its successful collaborations with The Glasgow School of Art and Loughborough University. Our partners will bring world-class, wide-ranging expertise to the ARTICULAR project to realise a data-driven, machine learning future for medicine development and manufacturing.

“CMAC is a leader in the research and development of new methodologies and processes for the manufacture of medicines and the ARTICULAR project will help us to achieve these goals by integrating state-of-the-art computational methods and data visualisation approaches to further enhance development and the availability of high-quality treatments for any number of diseases.

“The use of advanced data analytics is now commonplace in numerous other sectors and we look forward to developing and demonstrating these applications with pharmaceutical industry partners over the coming years.”

Digital tools will be created to make the design and manufacture of new medicines as efficient as possible, thus helping to reduce the costs of bringing the medicines to patients.

The research team also includes Loughborough University and Silicon Valley company DAQRI, along with The Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre, Booth Welsh, Perceptive Engineering Ltd. and Siemens.

ARTICULAR is one of seven projects around the UK which will share £11.4M of digital manufacturing investment from EPSRC. Work on the four-year research project will begin in July 2018.