Developing medications for children can be challenging — taste and texture are important, but safety is also a major concern, according to pharmaceutical sciences professor Om Perumal at South Dakota State University. As co-founder and chief scientific officer of Tranzderm Solutions, he is adapting his corn protein-based drug delivery method to oral pediatric formulations.
“Our core technology is the same, but we’ve refined it and are finding new ways to utilize it,” said Perumal. His patented drug delivery system uses zein, a protein found in dried distillers grain, a co-product of ethanol production, to encapsulate the medication. The nanoparticles are approximately 500 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.
To apply to oral pediatric formulations, Perumal explained, “We’ve modified the nanoparticles by coating them with milk proteins.” explained Perumal. “Our idea is to use products kids like.”
Providing federal incentive
Before 1998, about 70 percent of the drugs used for children had not undergone clinical testing for the newborn to 17-year-old population, according to the National Institutes of Health Medline Plus.
“Drugs behave differently in children than adults,” Perumal explained. However, the pharmaceutical industry did not have much incentive to do the testing because the pediatric medications make up only 10 percent of the pharmaceutical market.
To encourage the development of drugs customized for children, the federal government in 2002 passed the Best Pharmaceutical for Children’s Act. It grants incentives to drug companies conducting Food and Drug Administration-requested pediatric studies.