A new player has entered the pharma formulation development services arena, offering technologies used in the food industry to improve drug palatability.
US-based Senopsys uses proprietary sensory assessment tools to identify the critical sensory attributes of drug substances, quantify taste masking challenges, and measure the flavour quality - or palatability - of drugs.
In addition, the company claims it can develop "target sensory profiles" that result in patient-acceptable pharmaceuticals as most of its formulation services are based on sensory analysis.
Senopsys has developed tools that allow drug makers to quantify the taste masking challenge of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) and to measure the flavour quality of new drugs and their competitors.
"We don't license a technology per se but we use many technologies for formulation development," Jeff Worthington, founder of Senopsys, told OutSourcing-Pharma.com.
"We create a formula or a recipe that our customers can use however they see fit."
In addition, the company also works with drug developers to assess the suitability of novel dosage forms for specific drugs and develop new formulation systems for both investigational and already approved drugs.
"The simple truth is if patients don't like a medication, they just won't take it, which can have far-reaching implications on patient health and the widespread acceptance of a drug product," said Worthington.
"Many will point to a product's flavour as the key determinant of patient acceptance; but a drug palatability is much more complicated than its flavour."
He added that the key to developing palatable pharmaceuticals lies beneath the surface and includes factors such as balancing the four basic tastes - sweet, sour, salty and bitter - building blends and body, extending the aftertaste duration, and adding beneficial mouth feel factors.
Unsurprisingly, what Senopsys has done is translate the techniques used in the food industry to the pharmaceutical industry and now provides services to both pharma companies and their contract research organisations (CROs).
The success potential of Senopsys lies in the fact that very few drug developers and CROs have the expertise and the capabilities to effectively evaluate or optimise these factors.
According to Worthington, there are several reasons why. First, formulation failure is an infrequent event, if you consider that only a small number of drugs make it to market launch.
"The second factor is that pharmaceutical companies usually don't have the staff or the regulatory infrastructure to be able to taste and test the drugs so they have to outsource the process," he explained.
And finally, there is the challenge that represents the development of palatable drug formulations for specific patient groups, and drug developers often don't have the right skills and expertise to evaluate and optimise the formulation of the drug they are developing.
Although it is a very niche business - 80 per cent of oral dosage forms are capsules and tablets - it is an important one, according to Worthington.
Indeed drug makers are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that optimising pharmaceuticals' palatability can have a significant impact on drug acceptability and sales.
"We work on a contract basis with a variety of clients, from big pharma to small biotech companies to increase patient accessibility," said Worthington.