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Controlling growth of organic crystals with high-powered magnets could have major benefits for pharmaceutical development

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

Dr Simon Hall (centre) and Professor Nick Norman, Head of School of Chemistry (right) with Simon Osborne (Technical Manager for Chemistry), Nicole Dixon (MagnaPharm Project Officer) and Jason Potticary (Research Associate) University of Bristol

17 November 2017

A Bristol-led, international project investigating a new method of controlling the growth of organic crystals, with potential benefits for pharmaceutical development, has taken a step forward with the opening of a new £1 million laboratory.

The MagnaPharm project, funded under the EU Horizon 2020 'Future and Emerging Technologies' programme, aims to improve the efficacy of pharmaceutical compounds by crystallising them in high magnetic fields.

The ability to do this would have a transformative effect on almost all pharmaceutical compounds making them more effective in terms of getting into the bloodstream faster and better.

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

The new laboratory - one of only few of its kind in the UK - was officially opened this week.

It features four high-field electromagnets to enable crystallisation experiments under fields of over 3T.

With these electromagnets, Bristol will be able to act as a high-throughput screening centre for all the pharmaceutical targets under investigation.

The project initially targets 12 of the most high-profile, high-worth generic drugs with the aim of uncovering new crystal forms of them.

Dr Hall said: "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."

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