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Mesoporous Magnesium Carbonate for Pharmaceuticals, Cosmetics and Sports


In 2012, researchers from the Division of Nanotechnology and Functional Materials at Uppsala University in Sweden created Upsalite®, a form of mesoporous magnesium carbonate (MMC) that until then, had been impossible to create. Named after the city Uppsala, the material has the highest surface area of any substance in its class, and performs equal to zeolites, metal-organic frameworks, and carbon nanotubes as moisture adsorbing material, but can adsorb moisture at low humidities even more effectively than existing zeolites on the market. The research team went on to found Disruptive Materials with the aim to commercialize Upsalite. AZoMaterials spoke to Disruptive Materials about the inception of the company and the scope for applications in the pharmaceutical, sports and cosmetics industries.

How was Disruptive Materials founded, and how was Upsalite created?

Upsalite was synthesized for the first time in 2012 at Uppsala University by a team led by Professor Maria Strømme.

The main goal of the project was to develop a safe, porous material that could be used to stabilize poorly soluble drugs in their amorphous form once loaded into the MMC material. Many active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) exhibit poor water solubility, which is a major challenge in the pharmaceutical industry: approximately 70 percent of the pipeline drugs are poorly soluble. One way to increase water solubility is to load an API into a mesoporous structure whereupon it may be stabilized in an amorphous highly soluble form. Such approach has successfully been demonstrated for several mesoporous silica-based drug delivery systems. But at the time (2012) the MMC system was absent from the scene and many scientists had unsuccessfully attempted to create such material. Thus, when the team finally made a successful synthesis it was a major achievement. The team decided to file a patent application and when the manuscript and press release were published in the summer of 2013, it received a massive media attention. They also received many material requests from researchers and industries from around the world. Thus, it was quite clear that the MMC material might have a large market potential and Disruptive Materials was formed by the inventors more or less immediately afterwards, in September 2013.


Image Credit: Disruptive Materials

Today, Disruptive Materials has 28 employees, divided into three business units. Around half of the team is working with research and development. We are well financed and have gone through three financing rounds; the last one has just finished and will bring in another 10 million euros into the company. Although AZoMaterials first reported that Upsalite would be used in clean technology, we have instead focused in the three business areas of sports, cosmetics, and pharma. The scientist at Uppsala University thought about pharmaceutical application of MMC already from the beginning, but sport and cosmetics are two new interesting areas that have commercial potential in the short term.



Image Credit: Disruptive Materials

Following the successful synthesis of Upsalite, were there any challenges associated with the scaling up of manufacturing this material? If so, how have these been overcome?

Although it was difficult to find a way to synthesize the material at first, it turned out that once we knew how to do it, it was a relatively simple and scalable process. The biggest challenge was actually to find a contract manufacturer that has access to the equipment that we need and who could help us scale up our process because we didn't want to build a factory to manufacture ourselves. We now have two contract manufacturers that we use. They're both based in Germany and are ISO certified. We have recently received REACH registration allowing us to produce up to 10 tons per year. The manufacturing is going well, but we are continuously working on optimizing the process and shortening the manufacturing cycle times.


Image Credit: Disruptive Materials

MMC has the highest surface area of any material in its class. How has it been used in an optimized drug delivery platform for the pharmaceutical industry?

If you take a poorly soluble drug orally it will just go straight through the gastrointestinal tract and won't be taken up by the body. A way to solve this issue is to make amorphous forms of the drug. However, this presents a challenge in that amorphous formulations are less stable. One way of overcoming this challenge is to dissolve an active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) in an organic solvent and loading it into a porous material with pores so tiny that each pore fits approximately one molecule, and this hinders any re-crystallization. Despite the lack of crystallization, this still creates a solid dispersion, which is physically stable over time. The bigger the surface area and the bigger the pore volume of the material, the more API you can load into it. We have developed a proprietary drug delivery platform based on the MMC material platform, the pharmaceutical grade mesoporous magnesium carbonate (Pharma-MMC). Pharma-MMC has a has exceptionally good drug loading capacity and is optimized for industrial processing. We currently have multiple potential drug product candidates in development and patent applications on file. 

Stabilize poorly soluble drugs with Pharma-MMC

Video Credit: Disruptive Materials on YouTube

Upsalite also has excellent moisture adsorption capacity and oil absorption properties. How has it been developed for additional sports and cosmetics applications?

For sports, we are mainly using the moisture adsorption properties of Upsalite. So, the first product on the market is a climbing chalk that has been developed together with Black Diamond, a successful global climbing company. Chalk, in the form of hydromagnesite (crystalline magnesium carbonate), has a decent moisture uptake and it also has a flaky crystalline structure that creates friction. But Upsalite has a moisture adsorption capacity that is 10 times better than magnesium carbonate. Thus, it helps to absorb the excess sweat in the hands and gives the climber a better grip, thus it is improving the function of the chalk. We’re now working on a liquid chalk. This is a liquid form of chalk that you can use for climbing but also CrossFit, weightlifting, or other types of sports where you need a good grip. We plan to diversify into other sports products where moisture is also a concern.


Image Credit: Disruptive Materials

For cosmetics, the first products that we developed together with brands, use the excellent oil-absorbing properties of Upsalite. When Upsalite is added to makeup it helps remove excess sebum on the skin and reduces that kind of shine that makes the skin appear oily, greasy or sweaty. It also has good setting properties and will help makeup stay longer without the need to re-apply. The first product that has been launched in Europe with Upsalite is a product called PROWDER from Palina Skin Philosophy. This is a Swedish brand, which is only sold in Sweden. We are now working with other brands that are sold on a global market.


Image Credit: Disruptive Materials

If anyone is interested in having Upsalite or Pharma-MMC in their research, development or final products, what is the process to have access to the material?

Disruptive Materials is an innovation and development partner to brands helping them to differentiate their portfolio and product concepts by applying our materials.

For sports and cosmetic applications with Upsalite, we develop products together with brands who in turn sell the finished products to their distribution networks or directly to consumers. In Pharma, we are developing our own drug products using Pharma-MMC. As such, we are not working with any other customers currently.

Since Upsalite is not for sale as a raw material, the best way to get access to this material is to contact us to discuss a potential collaboration where both parties would enter into a legal agreement prior to any development or transfer of material would occur. Pharmaceutical grade MMC is currently not offered in the public domain.

What is next for Disruptive Materials, Upsalite and Pharma-MMC, from drug delivery systems to ready-to-sell sports products and mineral cosmetics?

The pharmaceutical team's goal is to develop selective drug products or drug intermediates within a market niche. This is something that we hope to see after the first clinical trials, which are likely to be starting in the near future.

For sports, we have developed the liquid chalk, but that is not on the market yet. We have tested it with professional athletes and are confident that it performs extremely well. The aim now is to get it out on the market and to work with brands that want to sell it. We are also looking into new applications in sports where moisture uptake is important.

 With cosmetics, we will scale up our business and the porous mineral makeup to make it accessible to global brands, so people can buy it anywhere in the world. In-house, we are also working with liquid formulations.

A long-term project is to utilize the drug delivery technique, which we use for pharmaceutical applications, in cosmetics and skin care – that is, loading the porous structure with active ingredients. There is also the potential to work outside the three key application areas of pharmaceuticals, sports and cosmetics in the future but is not a focus for now.

About Dr Cecilia AnnerenImageForArticle_18777_15752539990193935.jpg

R&D Director at Disruptive Materials

Dr Cecilia Annerén is leading the R&D team at Disruptive Materials; a fast-growing company developing products and solutions based on Upsalite®, a patented mesoporous magnesium carbonate. She has an extensive scientific background in stem cell and molecular biology from the US and Sweden as well as comprehensive insight from senior positions in R&D, product management and marketing at GE Healthcare.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.


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