Press Release: Nano-analytics provide a help hand for improving drugformulations


Is it possible to improve the effectiveness of a drug while reducing its side effects? “The Nano-Analytics for Pharmaceutics (Nano-Pharma) project, by the Central European Research Infrastructure Consortium (CERIC), aims at improving drugs formulation by applying and developing advanced nano-analytical instruments” says Dr. Aden Hodzic, Principal Investigator of the research project.

The most recent study, published in the Journal of Drug Delivery Science and Technology, is about one of the most common over-the-counter medications, ibuprofen. “Thanks to the analyses based on Synchrotron source and Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), it was possible to verify that the ibuprofen molecule might degrade under certain preparatory conditions. Previous studies could not detect such degradation due to the lack of high-resolution analytical laboratories and synchrotron tools”, continues Dr. Aden Hodzic. The product of this degradation is 4-isobutylacetophenone, which might cause some of the adverse effects associated with the famous drug.

In this study, the research team employed many of the analytical instruments available at CERIC’s partner facilities. For instance, X-ray based experiments were realised at the SAXS beamline of the Graz University of Technology (TU-Graz), installed at the Elettra Synchrotron in Trieste, allowing to identify parameters compatible with the degradation of the ibuprofen molecule. Other experiments based on Infra-Red (IR) and NMR were realised at the SISSI beamline of Elettra and the National Institute of Chemistry in Ljubljana, respectively. Combining the analyses mentioned above with further experiments and calculations from the laboratory at TU-Graz allowed the identification of traces of a toxic molecule resulting from the ibuprofen degradation, 4-isobutylacetophenone. The CERIC Partner Facilities employed in this study are located at the Graz University of Technology, Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste, and the National Institute of Chemistry, respectively in Austria, Italy, and Slovenia.

Graphical abstract of the research paper

“The nano-analytical approach will enable the formulation and production of safer and more effective drugs, capable of meeting the most stringent criteria of the medicine regulatory agencies”, concludes Dr. Ornela De Giacomo, deputy executive director at CERIC and co-author of the study.

CERIC-ERIC is a multidisciplinary research infrastructure established by the European Commission in 2014. It’ open for users in all fields of materials and biomaterials sciences, and nanotechnology. With a single-entry point to some of the leading national research infrastructures in 8 European countries, it allows structural investigation, analysis and synthesis of materials, using photon-, electron-, neutron- and ion-based techniques. CERIC enables the delivery of innovative solutions to societal challenges in the fields of energy, health, food, cultural heritage and more.