Regulating Growth of Organic Crystals Using High-Powered Magnets for Use in Pharmaceutical Industry

A Bristol-led, global project studying a new technique of manipulating the growth of organic crystals, with potential advantages for pharmaceutical development, has progressed further with the launch of a new £1 million laboratory.

High-res image of mefenamic acid (commonly used to treat mild to moderate pain relief) aligned under magnetic field in the MagnaPharm Laboratory. Image credit - University of Bristol

Funded under the EU Horizon 2020 'Future and Emerging Technologies' program, the MagnaPharm project aims to enhance the efficacy of pharmaceutical compounds by crystallizing them in high magnetic fields.

The ability to realize this would have a transformative effect on nearly all pharmaceutical compounds making them extremely effective with regards to getting into the bloodstream quicker and more effectively.

MagnaPharm builds on the finding by Dr Simon Hall’s group in the School of Chemistry that organic crystal growth can be regulated using magnetic fields.

The new laboratory - one of the few of its kind in the UK - was formally opened recently.

It features four high-field electromagnets to enable crystallization experiments under fields of more than 3T.

With these electromagnets, Bristol will be able to serve as a high-throughput screening center for all the pharmaceutical targets under examination.

The project primarily targets 12 of the most high-profile, high-worth generic drugs with the plan of discovering new crystal forms of them.

The application of magnetic fields to intentionally control variations in the crystal structure of pharmaceuticals is entirely novel and opens up the possibility producing drugs which are more effective. One can imagine, for example, being able to take a lower dose of a drug to get the same effect, or even to enable new drugs which have stalled in development due to solubility issues, to come to market.

Dr Simon Hall, School of Chemistry, Bristol University

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