NJIT Engineers Win an Edison Patent Award for Technology that Masks the Taste of Bitter Drugs

Written by: Tracey Regan,
Rajesh Davé, distinguished professor of chemical, biological and pharmaceutical engineering, and two of his former graduate students, Maxx Capece and Daniel To, received a Thomas Alva Edison Patent Award from the Research & Development Council of New Jersey for developing a manufacturing process that masks the bitter tastes of medications while delivering them effectively to their targets in the body.

The team of chemical engineers was honored for their “enabling technology” at the organization’s 37th Edison Patent Awards Ceremony on November 3. They were among 12 winners in 2016.

Their patent, “Solventless Mixing Process for Coating Pharmaceutical Ingredients” (U.S. 9,107,851), is for a process that combines water insoluble and soluble polymers to form a highly structured particle coating layer – spread as a composite film in a single, high-intensity vibratory process – to mask the bitter taste of a drug while not impeding its delivery.

The process allows them to coat fine particles less than the diameter of a human hair in width without using water, organic solvents or heat.

“By using this coating technology, we are able to achieve four important goals: making medications more palatable to consumers, eliminating chemicals we don’t want in the body, decreasing the environmental footprint of the manufacturing process and lowering its cost,” notes Davé.

The technology has been licensed by a global health care company that develops both drugs and their delivery systems. The coating in that instance is a fine layer of wax that will be used to mask bitter tastes.

Capece is a senior scientist at Chicago-based AbbVie, Inc., a biopharmaceutical company, and To is a senior product development scientist at Colorcon, Inc., a global pharmaceutical product development company. Both worked with Davé at the New Jersey Center for Engineered Particulates while they were Ph.D. students at NJIT.

The Council’s awards this year went to innovative patent work spanning 11 categories, including agriculture, biotechnology, defense, drug delivery technology, enabling technology, energy, industrial process, industrial product, medical device, medical technology and telecommunications.

In a statement earlier this fall, R&D Council President Anthony Cicatiello said that this year’s winners showcased “the breadth and depth of STEM leadership and innovation” in New Jersey.

“New Jersey is STEM strong,” Cicatiello said. “Dating back to the beginning with Edison, then Bell Labs and our state’s robust pharmaceutical industry, jumping to present day inventions and discoveries like those we are honoring in this year’s Edison Awards class, New Jersey continues to be an innovation powerhouse.”

Among the other recipients are AdvanSix (Honeywell), ExxonMobil, Immunomedics, Lockheed Martin, Merck, NJIT, Nokia Bell Labs, Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory, Rutgers University  Siemens and TE Connectivity.

“All of the inventions awarded last night were truly impressive – and so diverse,” Davé said. “It is especially nice to have NJIT’s contributions represented among them.”

Tracey Regan

tregan@njit.edu