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United States' FDA awards University-led team over $500,000

11 September 2018
Multi-disciplinary research to enhance pharmaceutical inhalers
A University of Sydney multidisciplinary project has been awarded $548,000 by the United States' Food and Drug Administration to research enhancements to how dry powder inhalers are designed by the pharmaceutical industry.

The multidisciplinary team led by the University of Sydney’s Professor Hak-Kim Chan from the Sydney Pharmacy School, will commence the first stage of the project in October. Professor Chan, whose expertise leads the Advanced Drug Delivery Group at the University, will be working with experts including Dr Agisilaos Kourmatzis from the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, who specialises in multiphase flows and laser diagnostics.

They will collaborate with Associate Professor Runyu Yang from UNSW Sydney, a specialist in numerical modelling of particulate systems, and Dr Shaokoon Cheng from Macquarie University, specialising in biomedical engineering and upper airway mechanics.

This is the first time that the University of Sydney has been awarded a research grant by the US Food and Drug Administration to work on a project to support the pharmaceutical industry. Not only is this a multi-disciplinary team but it’s a real illustration of the impact of the world-class research we do at the University.
Professor Hak-Kim Chan, Sydney Pharmacy School

“Working towards a more effective health outcome for many people by improving inhalers shows our commitment to translating our research into real-world modalities. In working on FDA-funded and pharmaceutical industry-related projects, we’re not only commercialising research but building strong partnerships invaluable to the work of the University in the future,” Professor Hak-Kim Chan added.

Professor Hak-Kim Chan, Sydney School of Pharmacy (left) and Dr Agisilaos Kourmatzis, Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies

Professor Hak-Kim Chan (left) and Dr Agisilaos Kourmatzis


Commonly used to administer asthma and steroid medication to the respiratory system, the project to develop inhaler devices is expected to significantly improve the ability to optimise inhaler devices and therefore closer to improving treatment outcomes.

The Food and Drug Administration is a federal agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services and is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the control of prescription pharmaceutical drugs and medications, vaccines, biopharmaceuticals, blood transfusions, medical devices and electromagnetic radiation-emitting devices.

This places Sydney-based universities, led by the University of Sydney, in a unique position.
Dr Agisilaos Kourmatzis

Additions to the coveted ‘FDA-approved’ list go through stringent standards testing. The FDA also carries out research and development activities to progress technology and standards that support its regulatory role. It is generally rare for non-US-based institutions to succeed in these bids for funding.

“This project has strong potential to deliver new approaches that can have a translational impact on inhaler design. As the project is funded by the FDA itself, it also gives us an opportunity to liaise directly with the FDA in improving future processes used to develop new inhalers and to predict their performance. This places Sydney-based universities, led by the University of Sydney, in a unique position,” said Dr Agisilaos Kourmatzis from the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies.

“By combining pharmaceutical science with unique engineering technologies, we expect to be able to improve our ability to predict the effectiveness of oral inhalation drug delivery. Our multidisciplinary approach that combines pharmaceutics with computational techniques, fluid dynamics, and physiology is quite unique and we are excited to see how much we can accomplish as a team working closely with the FDA,” Dr Kourmatzis concluded.