Developments to Watch
FROM CHEMICAL SOUP, DRUGS THAT GO DOWN THE HATCH
In the 1960s, scientists conducted experiments to see if they could recreate the origins of life. By applying voltage to a soup of chemicals, they managed to produce amino acids and proteins, the building blocks of life. Eventually, the experiments yielded tiny, hollow spheres made from protein-like materials.
Now, nearly 30 years later, Clinical Technologies Associates Inc. in Elmsford, N. Y., is using similar microspheres to make oral forms of drugs, such as insulin, heparin, and other "large molecules" that now must be injected. These drugs can't be taken orally because they are broken down in the digestive tract before they can get into the bloodstream. But CTA's microspheres absorb the large molecules when both are put into an acidic solution. This coating protects the drugs as they travel through the gut. Once in the bloodstream, the microspheres dissolve, releasing the drug. So far, CTA has licensed the technology to Upjohn Co. and Genetics Institute, a biotech company.EDITED BY NAOMI FREUNDLICH