The National Institute for Innovation in Manufacturing Biopharmaceuticals (NIIMBL) recently announced it would provide funding for a Missouri University of Science and Technology researcher’s biopharmaceutical manufacturing project.

The S&T project is one of 14 sharing $10 million for research in technology, workforce development and global health. 

Dr. Sutapa Barua’s research project, titled “Rapid Endotoxin Detection and Removal Technologies to Overcome Low Endotoxin Recovery” involves collaborative work to address an industrywide need for more effective endotoxin detection and removal. The improved process could mean bringing safe pharmaceutical treatments to the market quicker and cheaper, which in turn would help patients save on costs and receive potentially life-saving treatments faster. 

Barua, an assistant professor in chemical and biochemical engineering at Missouri S&T, studies the detection and removal of endotoxins, which are toxins present inside bacterial cells that are released when the cell disintegrates. Endotoxins are released into the body when antibiotics or the human immune system destroy gram-negative bacteria. An infection of gram-negative bacteria can result in numerous diseases, including septic shock, which is potentially fatal.

A native of Bangladesh who came to the U.S. for graduate school, Barua cites the 2012 death of Bangladeshi writer Humayun Ahmed — reportedly from sepsis — as a contributory factor in her efforts to focus on endotoxin removal. Barua says she knew several members of the writer’s family personally.

Her research team is evaluating the efficiency of fluorophore-based endotoxin detection measurements in medicines containing amino acids, buffer, cell culture media, serum and surfactants. The group is also measuring the performance of a polymeric nanoparticle-based filter to remove endotoxin from vaccines while maintaining high product recovery. 

“The low-cost purification technology is essential for the large-scale production and manufacturing of vaccines in the biopharmaceutical industry to meet the market demand,” Barua says. “This is especially important during a global crisis such as the eradication of COVID-19 and its immediate need for vaccine development to work synergistically with clinicians, health care workers and the society for the reduction of morbidity and mortality caused by the disease.”

NIIMBL is a public-private partnership whose mission is to accelerate biopharmaceutical innovation, support the development of standards that enable more efficient and rapid manufacturing capabilities, and educate and train a world-leading biopharmaceutical manufacturing workforce, advancing U.S. competitiveness in the industry.