Speeding up clinical trials by making drug production local

The Boston area has long been home to innovation that leads to impactful new drugs. But manufacturing those drugs for clinical trials often involves international partners and supply chains. The vulnerabilities of that system have become all too apparent during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Now Snapdragon Chemistry, co-founded by MIT Professor and Associate Provost Tim Jamison, is helping pharmaceutical companies manufacture drugs locally to shorten the time it takes for new drugs to get to patients.

Snapdragon essentially starts as a chemistry lab, running experiments on behalf of pharmaceutical customers to create molecules of interest. From there it seeks to automate production processes, often lessening the number of steps it takes to create those molecules. Sometimes the new process will require a technology — such as a specialized chemical reactor — the client doesn’t have, so Snapdragon builds the equipment for the client and teaches them to incorporate it into their processes.

Some of those reactors are being used for the commercial production of approved drugs, although most are designed to help pharmaceutical and biotech companies get through clinical trials more quickly.

“At the clinical stage, you just want to go as fast as possible to find out whether you have a useful therapeutic or not,” Snapdragon CEO Matt Bio says. “We’re really trying to stay focused on the technology for delivering drugs fast to the clinic.”

Snapdragon has worked with over 100 companies, ranging from small biotechs to large multinationals like Amgen, for whom it has helped develop potential cancer treatments. The company has also worked with research agencies to push the frontiers of automated material production, including in a project with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to develop ribonucleotide triphosphates, which are the building blocks to mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccines.

In March, Snapdragon announced plans to build a 51,000 square foot facility in Waltham, Massachusetts, that will enable it to produce more drugs in-house, removing

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