A young US-headquartered company has devised technology that is based on the idea of creating a non-stick surface by eliminating friction. In this way, issues varying from packaging residues to occluded catheters can be addressed, solving problems and saving costs in healthcare and other industries around the world.
Product residues stuck in the packaging are a huge source of waste that often goes unrecognised.
More than 50 billion packages are sold every year containing viscous products, leaving enough of the contents behind in these packages to fill up 110,000 semi-trucks.
This can be especially costly in the case of expensive pharmaceutical products.
A US-based start-up called LiquiGlide is now commercialising technology to address this problem. Founded by MIT researchers Kripa Varanasi and Dave Smith, LiquiGlide was spun out of MIT in 2012.
The technology is based on the idea of eliminating friction, enabling thick, slow-moving liquids to flow easily, resulting in virtually every last drop of the product exiting the package. This is achieved quite simply through the use of coating layers.
As Chief Business Officer of LiquiGlide Dan Rippy, explained, it’s a question of mechanics. Surfaces vary widely by type, he said, but key to LiquiGlide's coatings is a bi-layered approach that creates one layer that becomes solid and textured with microscopic ridges and gaps, and a second liquid layer that fills up these gaps, said Rippy. A durable slippery coating is created through the application of the liquid layer to which the contents of the packaging will not stick. In other words, LiquiGlide fundamentally changes how liquids and solids interact.
The surface continues to be slippery because the liquid coating is held in place between the textures. The coatings can be custom designed to adhere to a variety of surface materials and can be designed to be edible or to withstand harsh industrial environments. “The ingredients in LiquiGlide's coatings are FDA approved pharmaceutical grade materials,” said Rippy.
The technology, he added, is friction-reducing, adhesion-preventing, safe, and environmentally friendly and can therefore be used to enhance the performance of a wide range of medical products.
“Looking at just one example: catheters and catheter-related complications and we can think about occlusion, we can think about clotting, and we can think about bio-film buildup associated with catheters. These challenges create tremendous expense for health care systems around the world. Not only do issues like this with catheters mean first and foremost that it has to come out and be replaced with a new one, which is obviously not advantageous to the patient, having to do so also consumes critical time within a hospital,” he explained.
“The ability to reduce occlusion of catheters has the potential to provide significant health and economic benefit. And, importantly, the patient is not being subjected to higher risk of infection It’s just one example of where catheter-related complications are well-known and well-documented. And these are extremely high: in the billions of dollars a year.”
Other applications could include vascular access and implantable devices; surgical products; medical device instrumentation and processing; biomedical packaging; and syringes, containers, and delivery systems for biologics, pharmaceutical therapeutics, and vaccines.
“In addition, it can help reduce yield loss of high value medicines in the manufacturing and production process,” Rippy noted.
He said that in the case of certain high-value viscous-type drug products, companies need to overfill a container by 10 to 15%, as a residue will always stay behind. The benefit for patients is ‘huge’ if the amount of a drug that comes out of a given container is in line with the product’s label and dosing and things of that nature, he added.
“So, there’s a lot of potential for our technology to achieve what we will call a triple aim, which is: to reduce cost; improve patient care; and to improve outcomes in the biomedical domain.”