Swiss scientists developed a new method that speeds up drug development

| By | Drug Development, R&D
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Swiss researchers from University of Zurich (UZH) have developed a novel method that speeds up the process of determining crystal structures of organic salts and significantly reduces the effort required to do so. As about 40 percent of all active pharmaceutical ingredients are salts, this new crystallographic method is set to greatly accelerate drug development.

One of the key steps in developing new drugs is determining the atomic structure of its biologically active substances. This generally involves performing X-ray analyses of single crystal structures to determine the ingredient’s detailed three-dimensional set-up. However, growing suitable single crystals is often a complex and time-consuming process.

A research group headed up by Bernhard Spingler, professor at the Department of Chemistry of the University of Zurich, has now modified a method that had previously been used exclusively for the crystallization of proteins, and successfully applied it to organic salts. The team was able to determine the crystal structures of several organic salts with significantly less time and effort.

The generation of solid salts of organic molecules is a key step in developing certain pharmaceutical ingredients. The positively and negatively charged particles that make up organic salts determine their properties, such as their solubility, crystal shape, ability to absorb water, melting point, and stability. The search for the ideal negatively charged anion to match the salt’s positively charged cation has until now been a very resource-intensive process. Thanks to the semi-automatic combination of ion exchange screening and vapor diffusion for crystallization, this is not only done quicker and at lower costs.

The University of Zurich is one of the leading research universities in Europe and the largest university in Switzerland.