New innovator: Innopharma
Ian Jones of Innopharma: “Being able to look what is happening as it happens is a significant improvement”
Ian Jones is a scientist with extensive experience in particle science, validation and manufacturing process control. He spent more than eight years on the manufacturing side of the pharmaceuticals industry and had ample opportunity to spot shortcomings in the production process. Four years ago he set up Innopharma Labs to focus on developing a new technology to make tablet manufacturing more time- and cost-effective for pharma companies.
Innopharma’s area of specialisation is process analytical technology and its first product, the Eyecon, was launched two years ago. Earlier this year the company added two new products to its line up and Jones says four more will be launched over the next three years.
“Our products are tailor-made for the pharmaceutical sector to help with blending, granulation, milling, compression and packaging,” Jones says. “They are demonstrably more accurate than other products . . . and give companies greater control over their manufacturing. This in turn reduces the amount of time spent reworking batches.
“At the moment, drug products are normally checked when a production run ends,” he adds. “If there is a problem it can take several days to identify and correct it. The Eyecon monitors production in real time, isolating problems much faster. Being able to look what is happening as it happens is a significant improvement in the manufacturing process and the savings it offers are significant and tangible.”
Innopharma’s core technology is based around imaging and sensors and the Eyecon is essentially a high-speed camera with sophisticated algorithms that continually monitor processes. Currently most producers use lasers to determine the size of the granules that make up a drug. However Jones says the shape of the granules, which a laser can’t measure, is equally important.
“The shape information is critical because it can directly influence how quickly a tablet will dissolve in a patient’s body. This is particularly important for extended release products.”
Innopharma partnered with a research institute in Finland to develop its patent pending Eyecon technology. Jones says that while the initial focus has been on the pharamaceuticals industry, the company is now looking at applying it to other sectors with granular-based products such as infant formula, food ingredients and fertilisers.
Innopharma is based in Dublin where it employs 14 people. The company’s development has been largely self-funded with support from Enterprise Ireland. To help with cash flow during the start-up phase, Jones set up a training and consultancy arm to retrain out of work engineers and scientists for new roles in the pharmaceuticals and medical devices industries.
The company has trained more than 200 people, of whom about 70 per cent have found new jobs as a result.