Keeping tabs on pharma: Scientists tackle sustainability issues around the creation of pharma’s consumer products and AstraZeneca’s lung cancer treatment approved in China

Pharma companies are calling to put sustainability at the top of their agenda after demand for a harmful petroleum-based material in pharmaceutical drugs increase, and AstraZeneca paves the way in lung cancer treatment in China following the negative publicity surrounding their Covid-19 vaccine

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Researchers discover sustainable alternatives to petrochemicals used in pharmaceuticals and beauty products

As sustainability in the pharma industry gathers pace, Heriot-Watt University scientists have worked to replace petrochemicals – a non-biodegradable material made from petroleum and natural gas – with natural ingredients produced by marine microbes.

Demand for petrochemicals is huge, with the consumer industry accounting for more than 70 per cent of the demand for all petrochemicals. Commonly used in the production of drugs, plastics, soaps, synthetic fibers, fertilizers, pesticides, paints and flooring and insulating materials, a number of industries, including pharma, are utilizing the material to create their consumer products.

The MARISURF Consortium, funded by the European Union’s research and innovation program Horizon Europe and led by Heriot-Watt University, has unveiled promising alternatives for petrochemicals in pharma products using marine microorganisms. 

Dr. Tony Gutierrez, scientist at the Heriot-Watt University, said: “A lot of attention in the project has focused on testing the ability of the bacterial strains to produce different types of surfactants and emulsifiers. We identified several strains that showed highly promising qualities of relevance to specific industries, in particular for potential use in foods, healthcare products and pharmaceuticals.

“From 500 initial strains, the research team worked closely with industry partners in the pharma space to scale up production of two strains with very positive feedback from the end-users on functionality. In the future, this could have huge potential impact on the manufacturing industry and for consumers themselves as these strains are derived from a sustainable and non-pathogenic marine bacterial source. They are of biogenic origin so have a much better environmental profile compared to petroleum-based surfactants which are currently used in many industrial applications.” 

Regulators in China approve AstraZeneca’s Tagrisso for treatment of early-stage lung cancer

China’s National Medical Products Administration has approved AstraZeneca’s Tagrisso treatment for early-stage lung cancer.

The medicine is the first of its kind to be approved in China and results from the ADAURA Phase 3 trial has shown the medicine can reduce the risk of disease recurrence or patient death by 80 per cent.

While up to 30 per cent of all patients with non-small cell lung cancer may be diagnosed early enough to have surgery with curative intent, recurrence is still common in early-stage disease. Historically, nearly half of patients diagnosed in Stage 1B, and over three quarters of patients diagnosed in Stage 3A, have experienced recurrence within five years.

In addition, more than a third of the world’s lung cancer patients are in China. Among those with non-small cell lung cancer, approximately 40 per cent have tumors typically mutate or grow, according to AstraZeneca’s clinical trial findings.

Dave Fredrickson, Executive Vice President, Oncology Business Unit at AstraZeneca, said: “The expedited approval of Tagrisso in China is part of a curative-intent regimen for early-stage lung cancer that underscores the high unmet need in this setting and our commitment to improving healthcare outcomes around the world. This approval reinforces the importance of testing across all stages of lung cancer, prior to treatment decisions, to ensure as many patients as possible can benefit from targeted therapies like Tagrisso and live cancer-free longer.”

Tagrisso is approved to treat early-stage lung cancer in more than a dozen countries including the US, and additional global regulatory reviews are ongoing. It is also approved for the first-line treatment of patients with locally advanced or metastatic lung cancer in China, the US, Japan and countries in the EU.

Discover solutions to help you reduce the environmental footprint of your pharma manufacturing while making medicines that are affordable and accessible to all in this interactive webinar alongside Dassault Systèmes.

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