What was the impact?
A spin-out company formed attracting over £3 million in investment. NiTech® Solutions Ltd was launched in 2004 with support from a Scottish Enterprise SMART award. Trials with over 60 chemical, food and pharmaceutical compounds resulted in consistent product quality with significant reductions in levels of waste, energy usage, inventory costs, and, importantly, over 90% reductions in process time.
Previous processes would result in inconsistencies in particle size and so require several refining stages with capital costs of around £1 million for just a single piece of equipment. NiTech’s technology was able to remove this step and has an overall cost of around £500,000, thereby saving time, money and energy.
Genzyme (now Sanofi) were first to adopt the technology for the production of a biopharmaceutical drug worth several £100 million per year. Implementation led to a production rate 40 times faster than a traditional batch reaction.
Product quality is higher and continuous monitoring has resulted in a zero rejection rate at the reaction stage, contributing to a competitive commercial advantage. NiTech’s continuous crystallisation technology is also being used in the development of one of AstraZeneca’s blockbuster drug ingredients, reducing crystallisation time by a factor of 50 from almost 10 hours to just 12 minutes.
NiTech’s technology was the starting point for the Continuous Manufacture and Crystallisation consortium, launched in 2010, which has attracted over £90 million investment and support from industrial partners including GSK, AstraZeneca and Novartis. The consortium aims to accelerate the introduction of new process-intensification technologies such as those developed by NiTech.