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UK pharma’s first hot-melt extrusion plant opens for business

A Kent pharmaceutical company supported by Enterprise Europe Network has opened the UK’s first hot-melt extrusion (HME) manufacturing plant, only the second in Europe.


The technology enables continuous production of 3-D printed tablets and formulations in varying dosages, combining active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) with polymers that mask any unpleasant taste.


Cubi-Tech Pharmaceuticals has been receiving help from EEN for more than three years, initially for help in reclaiming more than £200,000 in R&D tax credits and also on protecting its intellectual property.


Using HME for medicinal products cuts manufacturing time in half and achieves a 50% reduction in the cost of production, giving the company a significant advantage in the market.


The company has now successfully registered and had published three patents in Drug Delivery Systems with the UK Intellectual Property Office for Ibuprofen manufacturing using HME.


Innovate2Succeed programme


CEO and founder Saumil Bhatt said: “Our EEN adviser, Valerie Pondaven, introduced me to the IP audit just at the right time. We reviewed our patents and then we filed for another three in May, so that’s six patents in all.”


Last year Valerie also guided the company through the Innovate UK-funded innovate2succeed programme as Saumil developed his strategy to transform the business into an HME pharmaceutical manufacturer.


He added: “Valerie has been very good, working with us. She’ll always come up with new things, new people to talk to.”


Employee numbers have risen from nine to 12, with two more to be added over the next few weeks.


The business already has four companies interested in developing products using HME technology at its Rochester plant, which has been certified according to good manufacturing practice (GMP).


Knowledge Transfer Partnership


Saumil said: “We have invested £1.8 million in the last five years, without offering equity to anybody. Turnover is now at £1.5 million. In five years I expect it to rise to £10 million or more.”


Innovate UK has provided further support through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership in conjunction with academics from the University of Greenwich.


Other revenue comes from its wholesale arm, exporting prescription medicines and distributing a vitamin D range of products through Boots Walgreen (Alliance Healthcare), AAH Pharmaceuticals and Phoenix Healthcare.


The company also supplies other wholesale medicines and exports to Africa and the Middle East.

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