A large amount of pharmaceutical R&D resources are being spent on enhancing the delivery properties of existing and new drugs. Over the last years, an extended research community has been built around the use of innovative formulation processes. One of these new formulation processes, which have seen promising advances is called LBL-Technology.
LBL-Technology is a high-tech tool for making unique nano- and micron-sized capsules, which are invisible to the human eye. For instance, the head of a pin, 1.5mm across, could contain some three thousand million capsules. The combined surface area of these capsules would be 1500 times greater than that of the pinhead. Functionally designed and custom-made, these capsules suit a variety of pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical purposes. They not only allow the development of a variety of advanced drug-delivery products, but can also be applied to other types of products, such as foodstuffs, food ingredients, nutraceuticals, diagnostics, biosensors, enzyme catalysts, paper and paints. In fact, there may be no other encapsulation technology available which provides such high-end capsules.
Control is the thing. The term LBL (derived from layer-by-layer) refers to the unique encapsulation method developed by a group of scientists at the Max-Planck-Institute of Colloids and Interfaces, many of whom are among the founders of the company. The capsules are built layer-wise in a series of steps, each step being characterised by the self-assembly of polyelectrolyte molecules, forming an ultra-thin polymeric layer. For every layer, a polyelectrolyte is selected which bears the opposite charge of the previous layer. Using electrostatic interaction as a driving force for the self-assembly of the polymers, highly dense and well-ordered polyelectrolyte complexes are formed. The resulting capsule shells consist of between four and 20 layers and have a wall thickness of about 8-50nm.
LBL-Technology allows the use of a broad range of capsule wall materials. The number of capsule wall materials includes substances such as the familiar household pectins and gelatines, as well as other biological molecules such as chondroitin sulphate (the principal component of cartilage tissue), hyaluronic acid (found in skin and cartilage) or polyglutamic acid, heparines, protamines, histones and nucleic acids. All in all, a broad spectrum of materials, both biological and synthetic, is available for use. The incorporation of special compounds, within the polyelectrolyte layers of and on the outside of the capsule wall is a sophisticated method of functionalising the capsules. This method has proven especially useful for the enclosure and immobilisation of large molecules such as enzymes, antibodies, and other proteins. Even small nanoparticles have been successfully embedded in capsule walls, such as magnetic or superparamagnetic nanospheres.
Today, a start-up company, called Capsulution Nanoscience AG (Capsulution), is marketing the LBL-Technology, which encompasses more than 16 patent families. Its business is concentrated on the development of a range of products from the non-invasive blood sugar measurement to the stabilisation and protection of low-soluble drug substances. To achieve high-quality products in the various application sectors, the capsules can be produced in any size (from 500nm up to 50µ), and be fitted with almost any biochemical, electrical, optical and magnetic features.
The company has recently chosen a Japanese licensee to become the preferred manufacturer of automated LBL units, thus assuring the easy adaptation of the LBL-capsule manufacturing process by Capsulution's industrial clients. As a consequence, the partners are now offering a complete package consisting of the customised encapsulation recipes plus an automated hardware connected with a customer license, which grants the sustainable right for the commercialisation of highly differentiated LBL-products.