Lech Milroy, UD Chemical Biology, Dept of Biomedical Engineering, TU Eindhoven, demonstrating the simple filtration principle for simple scaled-up production of pure Z-endoxifen. In the background a labour-intensive high pressure setup to produce the same in low quantities.

Researchers at the TU/e have found a cheaper way to make an expensive cancer drug. Former bachelor student Daphne van Scheppingen discovered the method in 2011, but now a collaboration has been started between researchers from TU/e, Syncom B.V. and the Antoni van Leeuwenhoekzhuis, to produce the cancer drug Z-Endoxifen.

The bachelor’s student and her project supervisor Dr Lech-Gustav Milroy discovered that an expensive purification method (HPLC) was not necessary and that Z-Endoxifen could also be purified by a much cheaper process. The Groningen company Syncom then went on to improve this production method, so that the medicine can also be made in a large quantity. Finally, researchers from the Antoni van Leeuwenhoekzhuis proved that this approach indeed yielded pure Z-endoxifen and that the alternative cleaning method is effective. The drug still costs about 75,000 euros per gram, but with the new production process, the production costs can be a thousand times lower. Medical research groups no longer have to go to expensive producers to do research into the effects of the drug; the simplified process means that they can now produce it themselves in a much cheaper way.

Before the drug is available to patients, the new production method must be further scaled up to industrial production. The researchers expect that this will take about a year of research. More research is also needed into the effect of the drug, which can last between one and six years.

Photo: Bart van Overbeeke

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Author profile picture Frans van Beveren leads IO on a daily basis. He is fascinated by everything related to technical progress, innovation, sustainability, and industrial design.