Accelerate clinical trials with local drug production

Snapdragon Chemistry leverages in-depth chemical manufacturing and automation knowledge to improve pharmaceutical manufacturing capabilities in pharmaceutical companies.Credits: Image: Courtesy of Snapdragon Chemistry

The Boston area was home to innovations that led to influential new drugs. However, international partners and supply chains are often involved in the manufacture of pharmaceuticals for clinical trials. The weaknesses of the system became very apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Co-founded by Tim Jamison, a professor and vice president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Snapdragon Chemistry helps pharmaceutical companies manufacture drugs on-site and reduce the time it takes for new drugs to reach patients. I’m going.

Snapdragon essentially started out as a chemical laboratory experimenting on behalf of customers in the pharmaceutical industry to produce the molecules of interest. With the aim of automating the production process from there, you will often reduce the number of steps required to manufacture these molecules. New processes may require technology, such as specialized technology. Chemical Reactor – We don’t have a customer so Snapdragon teaches us to build a device for the customer and put it in the process.

Some of these reactors are used in the commercial manufacture of approved drugs, but most are designed to make it easier for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies to get through. Clinical Study Faster.

“In the clinical phase, we want to find out as soon as possible if there is a treatment that will work for us,” said Matt Bio, Snapdragon CEO. “We continue to focus on the technology to get drugs to the clinic quickly.”

Snapdragon has worked with more than 100 companies, from small biotechnology companies to large multinational companies like Amgen, to help develop potential cancer therapies. In a project with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), ribonucleotides are part of the mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine. We’re developing triphosphate.

In March, Snapdragon announced plans to build a 51,000-square-foot facility in Waltham, Massachusetts.

“This is intended to offer customers the fastest route for molecules that need to be tested in the clinic,” says Bio.

By concentrating on processes and technologies for the synthesis of chemicals, the company sees the potential to change the profitability of chemicals. Medicine Manufactured in every size.

“We can do [drugs] It can be a lot cheaper and what’s really interesting about it [around questions like] For example, how do you make a half-cent tuberculosis drug? “Says Bio. Much more difficult to make these complex drugs, but parts of sub-Saharan Africa. If you deploy you have to save all your penny. They are a new chance for us to get involved. “

Ideas and pivots

Jamison considered starting a business when he realized other scientists were interested in his work on continuous flow photochemistry, which uses light to scatter sparks. Chemical Reaction It also has significant cost and scale advantages over traditional batch chemical treatments.

“In general, chemistry has been in batch mode since its inception,” said Jamison, senior researcher at the Novartis-MIT Center for Continuous Manufacturing, who has published many articles on continuous flow chemistry processes. I’m going. “It’s like cooking. We make a fixed amount. It’s a batch. But if you’re a food manufacturer, for example, you need one continuous thing, an assembly line, to keep production running. Will be. “

In 2012, Jamison began planning the company with Aaron Beerer, an associate professor of medicinal chemistry at Boston University. After two years of developing, reviewing and “pressure testing” business models with advice from network and MIT Venture mentoring service colleagues, the founders set out to found a company that manufactures specialty and fine chemicals. .. Suitable for continuous flow synthesis. Snapdragon was officially founded as Firefly Therapeutics in October 2014.

Jamison says the company turned around since day one. Within a week of being founded, the founder signed two contracts. Instead of selling chemicals, it helps pharmaceutical companies develop ongoing manufacturing processes.

Bio joined the company in 2015 when the company (renamed Snapdragon) had a consulting and service agreement. Snapdragon’s customer base is growing rapidly, with four moves in the first four years requiring one to dozen lab benches.

Snapdragon’s job of helping companies improve their chemical processes is still their most common service. Most of these improvements come from understanding what the latest reactors and automation technologies can offer.

“If you walk through our lab, you will see a lot of automation and robotics functions doing things that people weren’t doing efficiently before,” says Bio. “Instead of letting our scientists set up or break down reactions in the lab, we can think about chemistry and then use robotic tools to get the answers we need faster. I’m going. “

“One of the areas where Snapdragon is really innovative is in the laboratory. [operating systems]This is literally a way to network all of the devices in the company and collect real-time information about the process, ”says Jamison.

Recognize industry potential

With Waltham’s expansion of Snapdragon, the company closes the perfect circle on the co-founder’s original idea of ​​producing specialty chemicals in-house.

According to Bio, this expansion is particularly advantageous in the development of therapies for diseases with low patient numbers and low material requirements. For example, he says that mRNA-based therapies can treat millions of people with one kilogram of material.

The company recently won a DARPA grant to try to convert a plethora of US products, such as natural gas and plant waste, into raw materials for high value medicines.

Jamison believes Snapdragon’s machine-based manufacturing process only accelerates the company’s ability to innovate.

“The chemistry of the future may be very different than it is today, but we don’t have enough data yet,” says Jamison. “One of Snapdragon’s long-term visions is to create automated systems that can generate large amounts of data and use that data as a training set for machine learning algorithms, from manufacturing to predicting material properties. , For use in a wide variety of applications. That opens up a lot of exciting possibilities. ”

Pharmaceutical companies are preparing for continuous manufacturing

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