Feature Stories

Doctoral Students Develop Better Pharmaceuticals at NJIT

Graduate students at NJIT are doing pioneering drug research

A group of doctoral students is researching ways to create better drugs, as well as how to improve the manufacture of them. Their particle engineering research, some of which is published in scientific journals, could have a pioneering impact on the pharmaceutical industry.

As part of their research, the students attach nano-sized silica to the surface of micro-sized powders. The nano-coating improve how the drugs flow, pack and mix with other ingredients. The students then measure the flow and dispersion properties of the drug powders. Since the scale of the powders and particles are infinitesimally small, the students use high-powered microscopes and near-infrared spectroscopy for their research, which could improve how drug dosages such as pills, tablets and edible film strips are manufactured.

The nine students, all chemical engineering majors, work under the direction of Rajesh Dave, distinguished professor of chemical engineering. Dave is a prominent researcher in the field of pharmaceutical research who has funding from the National Science Foundation. Dave’s labs in the York Center, which the students use for research, are among the best particle research labs in the nation.

“No university in the country and perhaps only one pharmaceutical company has better particle characterization devices than ours at NJIT,” says Dave. “And our lab equipment is the absolute best.”

The students, Dave adds, are developing nano-sized drugs whose surface area is smaller and thus more soluble in water. The smaller surface area of the drugs means they are more easily absorbed by the human body. “And that’s a major achievement in the manufacture of drugs,” he says. “These students are doing pioneering research.”

Here’s a brief account of the research that some of the graduate students are doing:

Danny To (featured above) researches fluid-bed coating, a process which makes solid particles behave like liquids. He then coats the particles so that they behave differently -- in a way that leads to superior powders and drugs.

Maxx Capece Maxx Capece is researching new methods to process fine active pharmaceutical ingredients and novel ways of characterizing them. His research could lead to the next generation of advanced dosage forms.
Xi Han Xi Han experiments with dry powders. In her research, she adds a layer of nano-particles to drug powders that make them smaller and leads to a better flow.  The nano-layers also improve the drug’s delivery and packing.  Her research could lead to drug particles with enhanced properties.
Chinmay Ghoroi Chinmay Ghoroi, a post-doctoral researcher, is developing tools to characterize and better understand drug powders. He studies how to improve the powder’s bulk density and how they flow.  Both are vital to the manufacture of drugs.
Laila Jalla Laila Jallo coats powders with nano-silica and nano-titania.  She uses magnetic equipment to improve and study the flow of the powders and see how they adhere to each other.  Her research could lead to new and superior drug development methods.

(By Robert Florida, Office of Strategic Communications)