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The reaction engineering of Pharmaceuticals: Efficient production of complex drug molecules


Traditionally, empirical methods are used in the life-science industry to discover new drugs. Therapeutic effectiveness or bioavailability is determined mostly by trial and error - even today. However, rational discovery of drugs is beginning to revolutionize the industry. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the manufacturing of the final drug product - despite the fact that drugs are complex products, with a number of engineered features. Also, new drugs coming to the market are larger molecules, which are designed to be a complex, three-dimensional molecule to targets specific enzymes or cell surface receptors.

This current trend is called the advent of the "large-molecule drugs". Large-molecule drugs, however, have one setback. They are difficult to make, and often it is nearly impossible to deliver them to the body. Thus, significant scientific know-how and expertise is required to make a drug into a product, i.e. there is a compelling need to apply engineering and science principles to this industry. The proposed program of the Marie Curie Chair (MCC) addresses exactly this issue, i.e. how to make a product from a newly discovered molecule. The research program will be a unique, multi-disciplinary combination of quantum-computational chemistry, experimental chiral catalysis, molecular design, and cutting-edge computer DNS simulations of multi-phase reactive flows in pharmaceutical processes.

The MCC also proposes a strong educational program combined with out-reach initiatives to disseminate his work to a broad audience, and to train young researches in a relevant and new area. This initiative lies also well within the scope of the Graz University of Technology to form a Life-Science Engineering Centre that includes areas such as advanced material s, bio-catalysis, reaction and bio-engineering, and nano-technology. In all activities the MCC will specifically address the need to foster women in science and engineering, as he has done in the past.

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