Science is a real treat

October 08, 2021     

Every day, Bristol Myers Squibb scientists come across images that highlight the wonders of science and the cutting-edge work of the company’s research teams. 

This spooky surprise found in a cross-section of a microscopic drug particle was discovered by Associate Scientific Director Deniz Erdemir of the Global Product Development & Supply (GPS) site in New Brunswick, N.J.

Erdemir is part of the Materials Science and Engineering group in the GPS Drug Product Development organization. Her team focuses on studying and controlling the physical properties of active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) to make them better manufacturing materials. 

Some APIs have what GPS would consider “poor powder properties.” They might stick to manufacturing equipment, or not blend well with other ingredients, or lack the “compactability” needed to be pressed into tablets. 

One way to fix this is to combine the API with an inactive ingredient – an approach known as co-processing. Erdemir’s team developed a co-processing technology in which API crystals become coated with a polymer, resulting in nearly spherical-shaped particles with improved powder properties. 

To get a better understanding of how this technique was working with one particular API under study, Erdemir’s team wanted to see what these particles looked like on the inside.  

A specialized imaging technology called focused ion beam scanning electron microscopy (FIB-SEM), supplied by DigiM Solution LLC, gave the team a cross-sectional look within these particles. The one pictured here measured 50 microns, the approximate width of a human hair, and had an unusual-shaped cavity.  

“It looked exactly like a jack-o-lantern,” Erdemir said. “I felt like there was a surprise hidden inside. I smiled like a kid on Halloween with a bucket full of candy.”

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