Industry-University Cooperative Research Center Launches

May 23, 2022

Calvin Sun Headshot


May. 23, 2022

The Center for Integrated Material Science and Engineering for Pharmaceutical Products (CIMSEPP), an Industry-University Cooperative Research Center backed by the National Science Foundation, was recently launched with the goal to transform the way we formulate and manufacture pharmaceutical drugs. CIMSEPP is the product of a collaboration between Raj Dave of the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Calvin Sun, PhD, FRSC, professor of pharmaceutics at the University of Minnesota College of Pharmacy.

“Historically, the development process for pharmaceutical products has been empirical, and the manufacturing process is inefficient,” explained Sun. “My lab has been doing research to tackle this problem by employing materials sciences and engineering principles with success. I hope the pharmaceutical industry will more broadly adopt this research approach through collaborative research with Center faculty members.”

The Center seeks to design and manufacture particulate and composite products for pharmaceutical companies and other industries that work with active ingredients.

Sun hopes the Center will “become an internationally recognized center for materials science and engineering-based design and manufacturing of pharmaceutical products” and a space for various industries to share knowledge and learn from one another. That is why he invited Nathan Mara, PhD, associate professor in Materials Science and Engineering and Alex Fok, PhD, MSc, director of the MDRCBB, to be part of the collaboration.

“Dr. Fok is an expert in materials characterization,” he said. Sun knows that Fok’s “expertise and the state-of-the-art instrumentation at the MDRCBB” will significantly impact what CIMSEPP can do. However, he also recognizes how the field of dentistry can benefit from the collaboration. “What we learn from pharmaceutical materials can be useful to solve problems in other industries, including those that the School of Dentistry is tackling.”

Fok was thrilled to be part of the center, and sees the ways his team can help out. “The MDRCBB is well-equipped for characterizing the chemical, physical and mechanical properties of pharmaceutical products,” he said. “Our experience and expertise in dental resin composites, which also consist of particles with a binder, will bring to the table some different but stimulating perspectives on the problems at hand.”

For Fok, the collaboration represents an exciting opportunity to collaborate with researchers and experts outside of his own field—and he sees the exciting ways CIMSEPP will foster communication and teamwork. “CIMSEPP will provide industrial members, some of whom are competitors, the unique opportunity and tremendous leverage to collaborate with academic partners on pre-competitive projects that will benefit all parties concerned,” he said. More than anything, Fok is excited about branching into the field of pharmaceutics. “I look forward to moving into an excitingly new but related field,” he said, “working with pharmaceutics colleagues to improve the design, manufacture and effectiveness of medical tablets that will benefit both manufacturers and the general public.”

For Mara, the collaboration offers an opportunity to apply science well developed in Materials Science and Engineering to solve problems encountered when developing drugs. "CIMSEPP provides the opportunity to work collaboratively along the intersection of two disciplines: Pharmaceutics and Materials Science and Engineering. Such seams between disciplines are fertile ground for scientific breakthroughs. Each discipline brings its own historical expertise and set of investigative tools to the table, and combine synergistically to cover large swaths of parameter space that cannot be efficiently navigated by single investigators working alone." he said. In particular, Mara looks forward to expanding the understanding of deformation and fracture in crystalline molecular crystals, which has roots in conventional structural materials like metals and alloys, to mechanical behavior of pharmaceutical materials and important processes, such as ingredient milling and tableting."

Sun indicated that, “strong support from the pharmaceutical industry as well as national labs in doing fundamental research with practical impact,” points to a strong future for the Center.

Categories: Research

Tags: Health Sciences

Media Contacts

Dawn Tucker
College of Pharmacy
Eileen Omizo-Whittenberg
College of Pharmacy