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Research & Development

We provide comprehensive analytical support during the development of drug formulations.

Our research and development (R&D) services combine innovative approaches, modern instruments  and advanced knowledge in the field of analytical science in order to achieve high performance in terms of selectivity, precision, sensitivity and robustness.

Every method is thoroughly tested to ensure its compliance with regulatory requirements and its ultimate performance and robustness in any laboratory worldwide.

Besides development, method optimization is essential in order to obtain top quality data in a shorter time and at lower cost.

Our services include, but not limited to, the following:

The analytical methods are directly linked to the quality of pharmaceutical products, since they ensure the identity, purity, physical characteristics and potency of the drugs.

According to the International Conference on Harmonization (ICH), the chemical methods may belong (but not only) to the following: (i) identification tests, (ii) quantitative tests of the active moiety in samples of API or drug product or other selected component(s) in the drug product, (iii) quantitative tests for impurities’ content, (iv) limits tests for the control of impurities.

Methods are developed to support drug testing against specifications during manufacturing and quality release operations, as well as during long-term stability studies. Methods may also support the product development, safety and characterization studies or evaluations of drug performance.

Effective method development ensures that laboratory resources are optimized, while methods meet the objectives according to the intended use. The selectivity of the method is of paramount importance, while increased robustness characteristics reassure the stable performance of the method over time, and the efficient transfer worldwide. Apart from the scientific goals, the simplification of the samples’ treatment and reduction of time and consumables (e.g. simultaneous determinations for combination drugs) are also an important part of the method development.

On top of the scientific drivers and appropriate software, the development team owns deep knowledge and indispensable experience in the field through hundreds of products and several publications in the research scientific literature and international conferences.

According to Article 10 (1) of Directive 2001/83/EC the applicant is not required to provide the results of pre-clinical tests and clinical trials if he can demonstrate that the medicinal product is a generic of a reference medicinal product. A generic medicinal product is defined as a medicinal product that has:

the same qualitative and quantitative composition in active substance(s) as the reference product,
the same pharmaceutical form as the reference medicinal product,
the bioequivalence with the reference medicinal product has been demonstrated by appropriate bioavailability studies.

Based on the above regulatory provisions the knowledge of the reference products quantitative composition is not mandatory in order to develop a generic product however, it could be a key issue in several cases, such as:

Depending on the nature and quantity, the excipients may have a significant impact on the drug bioavailability. Qualitative (Q1) and quantitative (Q2) formulation similarity is a way of lower risk in order to achieve similar bioavailability.
There are several cases where a pharmaceutical product can waive bioavailability studies pending on the drug solubility, the formulation form etc. Scientific justification can be significantly enhanced by demonstrating Q1 and Q2 formulation similarity.
The stability behavior of the product could be influenced by the drug – excipients interaction.
For topical applied products (hybrid applications), the excipients may have a significant impact on the release from the dosage form, on the skin barrier properties and drug penetration, directly affecting the rate and the extent of exposure at the site of action.

The development of a product specific dissolution method is a significant element of the pharmaceutical products documentation. Dissolution testing serves not only as a routine quality control test of production batches but also as a guide during the early stages of a successful formulation development.

The dissolution method development study includes the following:

Equilibrium solubility: Solubility of the drug substance is evaluated by determination of the saturation concentration of the drug in different media using the shake-flask solubility method at 37 ± 1 °C (using a temperature control orbital agitation platform).
Selection and validation of the analytical method for the determination of the examined substance.
Filter evaluation/ Filter compatibility: Compatibility with filter is performed in order to avoid absorption of drug substance; filter clogging and/ or not efficient removal of insoluble excipients.
Selection of dissolution medium/ Sink conditions: The dissolution testing should be performed close to physiological conditions, with the typical media for dissolution to be the diluted hydrochloric acid and buffers (phosphate or acetate) in the physiologic pH range of 1.2-7.5. The use of simulated fluids (with or without enzymes) is also an option for certain type of products. The use of aqueous solutions (acidic or buffer solutions) with a percentage of a surfactant in the lowest concentration to achieve sink conditions is also permitted however, with proper justification.
Stability of the drug substance in various media: Investigation of the drug substance stability in the dissolution media at 37 °C is evaluated.
Selection of the Apparatus type and rotation speed: Apparatus 1, 2, 3 and 4 according to the European Pharmacopeia (Eur.Ph.) are available in our laboratory. The selection is based on the provisions of the Eur.Ph. and the formulation characteristics to be tested.
Discriminatory power evaluation: The discriminatory power is evaluated with the testing of batches manufactured with meaningful variations of the product formula, manufacturing process or material attributes.
Selection of Dissolution Specifications: The acceptance criteria for a dissolution test is a function of Q, which is expressed as a percentage of label claim of drug dissolved at a specified time. The specifications establishment should take into account the characteristics of the API (e.g., BSC classification), the formulation behavior and also the potential extrapolation to the bioavailability elements (e.g., for generic formulations the specifications should be set with the use of the bioequivalence batches).

Extractables are compounds that are forced out of container closure system and manufacturing materials under laboratory experimental conditions. All extractables from a given pharmaceutical container closure system and manufacturing materials are, therefore, potential leachables in a drug product.

Since the pharmaceutical packaging/delivery system is the primary source of potential leachables, it is generally appropriate that any leachables assessment be preceded by an extractables assessment performed on the packaging/delivery system, its primary and certain critical secondary packaging components (that are non-contacting but potentially interacting) and/or packaging and delivery system materials of construction; consistent with regulatory guidelines and best-practice recommendations. Such an extractables assessment can also be performed on particular components and/or materials of construction of manufacturing and packaging equipment, as well as certain tertiary packaging components that are deemed of high leaching potential or have been implicated in an identified leachables problem with a particular drug product.

Extractables” assessments can be used to:

Characterize packaging/delivery systems, packaging components, combination product medical device components, manufacturing components, and their various materials of construction
Facilitate the timely development of safe and effective dosage form packaging/delivery systems, manufacturing systems and processes by assisting in the selection of components and materials of construction
Understand the effects of various manufacturing processes (e.g., sterilization) on packaging components and their potential leachables
Establish the worst-case potential leachables profile in a manner which facilitates leachables studies, the development of leachables specifications and acceptance criteria (should these be required), and the safety evaluation/qualification of potential and actual leachables
Establish the worst-case potential leachables profile in a manner which facilitates the safety evaluation/qualification of probable leachables when it is not scientifically possible to determine actual leachables
Facilitate the assessment of patient exposure to chemical entities resulting from direct contact between a patient’s body tissue(s) (e.g., mouth, nasal mucosa) and a packaging or combination product medical device component (e.g., a metered dose inhaler’s plastic actuator/mouthpiece)
Facilitate the establishment of qualitative and quantitative leachables–extractables correlations
Facilitate the development of extractables specifications and acceptance criteria (if these are required) for packaging components, combination product medical device components, and materials of construction
Facilitate investigations into the origin(s) of identified leachables whose presence causes quality and/or safety issues (such as out-of-specification results) for a marketed product

Elemental impurities in drug products may arise from several sources (e.g. residual catalysts employed during the synthetic process of the drug substance, interaction of the final product with manufacturing equipment or the container closure system, etc.). Since elemental impurities do not provide any therapeutic benefit to the patient, their levels in the drug product should be controlled within acceptable limits. To this end, ICH Q3D presents a process to assess and control elemental impurities in the drug product using the principles of risk management.

The risk assessment process can be described in three steps:

Identify known and potential sources of elemental impurities that may find their way into the drug product.
Evaluate the presence of a particular elemental impurity in the drug product by determining the observed or predicted level of the impurity and comparing with the established PDE.

Summarize and document the risk assessment. Identify if controls built into the process are sufficient or identify additional controls to be considered to limit elemental impurities in the drug product.

The first step of the risk assessment process comprises of the identification of known and potential sources of elemental impurities that may find their way into the final product. The figure below illustrates potential sources that will be considered during the evaluation.


A Failure mode and effect analysis (FMEA) is conducted in order to identify and assess the risk associated with each potential source of elemental impurities. FMEA is a highly structured, systematic technique for failure analysis. It involves the review of all components depicted in the Figure above in order to identify failure modes and their effects. For each component, their failure modes and their resulting effects are recorded in a FMEA sheet. Each failure mode is associated with a material, process or parameter that could serve as a source of elemental impurities. The failure effects correspond to the metals that could emanate from each source. The degree of severity of the effects, their respective probabilities of occurrence, and their detectability are assessed by assigning appropriate numerical values. A Risk ranking and filtering approach is subsequently adopted in order to compare and rank risks. The hybrid FMEA and Risk ranking and filtering methodology aims at facilitating the investigation and the subsequent establishment of additional measures / controls  in case the elemental impurity levels exceed the control threshold ( 30% of the PDE). The identification process is based on the review of the API, excipient and drug product manufacturing process to identify known and potential sources of Elemental Impurities. The elements that have to be considered are Class 1 and 2A metals, 2B in case they have been intentionally added, and class 3, depending on the route of administration. In all cases, all intentionally added elements have to be assessed.

The next step is the evaluation of the presence of particular elemental impurities in the drug product. The latter is based on the collection of predicted and/or observed levels of elemental impurities and the subsequent comparison of data with the established Permitted Daily Exposure. The data to support the evaluation may emanate from published literature, data generated from similar processes, supplier information data (e.g Certificates of Analysis), testing of the components of the drug product or the final product itself.

The final step comprises of the documentation and summary of the risk assessment and the identification of additional control requirements if required.

The proper implementation of the guideline requires a combination of a scientifically sound risk-assessment and testing of the final product and/or components. Based on the amount and quality of available data one could minimize the required testing. However, the level and variability of an elemental impurity should be well established. The latter means that in the absence of other justification, data from testing 3 representative production scale lots or 6 representative pilot scale lots of the component(s) or drug product would be required.

Percutaneous absorption actually infers permeation of the drug through the epidermis and into the deep layers of skin and general circulation in vivo, a total process that includes transport through the skin and local clearance. Skin permeation relates to the first part of the process, diffusion across the skin. In percutaneous absorption either diffusion or clearance factors can, in principle, be rate controlling; however, with few exceptions skin permeation is the kinetically determining event. Thus, skin permeation observed in vitro is believed to reflect accurately the rate determining aspects of drug delivery in most instances and is, therefore, projected as a means of determining relative availability from dosage forms (Skelly et al 1987). Based on these principles, in the “Critical Opportunities Pathway,” the FDA identifies the in vitro diffusion study combined with rheological testing to demonstrate bioequivalence of qualitatively and quantitatively (Q1Q2) equivalent drug products.

The primary permeability barrier of the skin, the stratum corneum, is a rugged, non-living membrane like hair or nails, and it retains its barrier properties following excision from the body. The in vitro permeation test involves the use of a diffusion cell that maintains excised human skin at a physiological hydration and temperature. The excised skin is routinely dermatomed to a thickness that includes the epidermis (with its stratum corneum) and part of the dermis. The in vitro diffusion study set up for topical products consists of excised human skin between donor and receptor chambers. Test formulations are applied to the skin membrane surface facing the donor chamber. A physiologically based receptor solution bathes the underside of the skin and accepts drug diffusing through the skin with adequate solubility to maintain sink conditions. It is important to maintain the sink conditions by including solubilising agents in the receptor fluid, if needed. Minimal effect on the skin barrier properties from these receptor solutions is desired and should be demonstrated. The receptor solution beneath is sampled through a side-arm sampling port at various time points frequent enough to maintain sink conditions that would adequately mimic the clearance created by the dermal microcirculation. Sampling to measure dermal drug flux in the in vitro permeation test model is performed in a manner analogous to pharmacokinetic sampling by blood draws (Narkar 2010, Raney et al 2015).

Permeation studies are a useful tool for Systemically as well as Locally Acting – Locally Aplied products, not only dermal, but also ocular (ophthalmic), rectal, vaginal, nasal and mouth (through oromucosal) products.

Structural Elucidation of an unknown compound is a challenging task, evolving rapidly in the field of pharmaceutical and forensic analysis. This critical analytical activity often emerges when unknown impurities are found to be present above the prescribed stringent identification threshold set by ICH Q3A/B, during routine control of an API or a final product (e.g. batch testing, stability study). The focus on impurities in pharmaceutical products closely relates to patient safety considerations associated with the induction of toxic or even carcinogenic effects. Furthermore, the identification / structural characterization of impurities serves the following purposes:

Provides a better insight on the nature and origin of the impurities which in turn highlights the critical synthetic / manufacturing process steps and enables the implementation of an effective control strategy.
Enables the synthesis of reference standards in order to achieve a “confirmed” impurity identification.
Enables the toxicological evaluation and the assessment of the genotoxic potential.
Facilitates the establishment of drug degradation pathways and mechanisms.

Structural elucidation of unknowns requires high throughput techniques and sophisticated chemometric tools. Mass spectrometry (MS) is the technique of choice, combined with a separation technique, mainly Liquid and Gas Chromatography.

The structural elucidation is based on information over the physicochemical properties of the molecule, as well as its chemical formula, derived from information of its molecular weight and fragmentation pattern. Sophisticated software combines the available information and based on advanced algorithms, a probable structure is proposed, with a certain degree of confidence. Moreover, the chromatographic retention time plausibility of the proposed structure is evaluated through chemometric models.

Accurate mass measurements, through high resolving power mass analyzers (HRMS) can contribute to the confidence degree of the proposed structure. Complementary techniques, regarding separation or detection, such as HILIC chromatography or NMR can boost the identification, by providing additional evidence for the characterization. Statistical evaluation and high scientific know-how, are necessary, as a final step for the identification.

MS techniques, mainly HRMS, together with statistical models and chemometric methods can maximize the retrieved information and combined with scientific expertise can frame the scheme of the identification of unknown impurities.

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Qualimetrix combines the range of the required hyphenated techniques, mentioned above, with “cutting edge” software and scientific expertise in order to facilitate and successfully complete the challenging task of structural elucidation. A tailor-made approach and methodology is applied according to the purpose of the study and the customer’s requirements that may include, but is not limited to, the following:

Transfer” of the chromatographic method employed for QC testing / Development of a MS-compatible analytical method.
Isolation of the unknown compound by means of semi-preparative chromatography.
Analysis of the isolated compound by means of hyphenated techniques and computer-assisted software and libraries.
Extractables / Leachables identification.
Elemental analysis.
Literature-based and in-silico toxicological assessment of the identified impurity.

All of the above aim at both the identification of the unknown impurity and the determination of its source so that the most effective control strategy can be defined and implemented.