Analysis of drugs in simulated intestine

2018-10-11

Janneke Keemink, researcher at the Department of Pharmacy, has developed an innovative tool that can accelerate the development of well-functioning oral drugs.

Previously, the process of developing functional drugs involved time-consuming and costly animal experiments. Janneke Keemink has developed a tool for the lab environment that can predict how a drug will act in our intestines and how much of the chemicals will reach the blood.

After specialising in how chemical compounds are absorbed by the liver and intestine, Janneke Keemink, Researcher at the Department of Pharmacy, realised that new drugs often lack the ability to quickly dissolve in fluid and thereby be absorbed by the blood.

“A growing number of drugs must be injected instead of being administered in tablet form. But, most patients prefer capsules that they can swallow,” says Janneke Keemink.

She and her research team are therefore working with different strategies to make chemical compounds water soluble. With the new Enabling Absorption (ENA) tool, they have mimicked processes and environments for human digestion and absorption of substances.

“Our model is designed for the lab environment, and we can quickly select promising drug candidates,” says Janneke Keemink.

ENA consists of two chambers – one that mimics the natural fluids of the intestine and another that mimics the blood's environment. Between the chambers, there is a membrane of cells that represents the intestinal wall.

“By adding chemical compounds to the intestinal divider and taking samples from both sides, we can see how much of the drug reaches the blood flow. We then compare how successful different forms of preparation are.”

The research team will now test drug preparations from pharmaceutical companies.

“Our goal is to create a fully-developed service that enables companies to make progress with their drug candidates faster than currently possible.” 

Janneke Keemink's project is receiving support in the form of advice and funding from UU Innovation. In addition, she is participating in Mentor4Research and has completed the UIC Business Startup programme.

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