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The research objectives of Drug Delivery and Disposition are focused on enhancing drug bioavailability of dosage forms for extravascular administration using pharmaceutical-technological approaches (new drug formulations and process technology) as well as biopharmaceutical strategies (based on knowledge of mechanisms underlying drug absorption and hepatobiliary disposition). Significant contributions have been made in the understanding of the physicochemical principles behind formulation strategies for poorly soluble drugs like amorphous solid dispersions, nanoparticles, and mesoporous drug loaded silica. The Laboratory innovates in the development of preclinical models for ADMETox profiling; these model systems include in situ intestinal perfusion in mice (enabling the use of KO and humanized mice in intestinal absorption studies) and hepatocyte-based prediction of drug-induced cholestasis.

     Pieter Annaert                   Patrick Augustijns                    Thomas Bouillon                 Guy Van den Mooter

Intestinal drug disposition – Biopharmaceutics

Drug Delivery and Disposition has a strong track record in the biorelevant profiling of intestinal drug absorption, covering all underlying processes including dissolution, precipitation, degradation and permeation. For this purpose, a wide range of simulation models is available, including the in vitro Caco-2 cell culture system, the Ussing chamber system and the in situ intestinal perfusion system. In addition, Drug Delivery and Disposition is able and licensed to perform whole animal absorption and pharmacokinetic experiments. Physiology-based pharmacokinetic modelling (Simcyp® Simulator) is available to extrapolate experimental data to human pharmacokinetics. One of the major targets involves the biorelevant and predictive evaluation of absorption-enabling strategies, including solubilization and supersaturation of poorly soluble drugs. In this respect, Drug Delivery and Disposition has elaborated a ground-breaking approach for evaluating intraluminal drug and formulation behavior in humans, involving the aspiration and characterization of gastrointestinal fluids. All absorption studies are supported by well-developed analytical equipment (LC-UV, -fluo, -MS/MS) to assess concentrations of drugs, excipients and endogenous compounds in biological matrices.

Hepatic drug disposition and drug-induced liver injury

In the field of hepatobiliary drug disposition and drug-drug interaction assessment, drug delivery and disposition has implemented the full spectrum of non-clinical model systems of the liver including: rat/human liver microsomes, rat/human hepatocytes in suspension, sandwich-cultured hepatocytes, cell lines transfected with hepatic drug transporters, isolated perfused rat liver and in vivo. Isolation and cryopreservation of plateable rodent hepatocytes and preparation of liver subcellular fractions is performed in-house. The research group has characterized several fluorescent transporter probes for evaluation and live imaging (by confocal microscopy) of drug transport processes in hepatocytes. Drug clearance prediction in special populations (e.g. pediatric), transporter-based pharmacokinetic boosting and liver unbound concentration assessment form major research objectives. The group has also developed and validated a holistic, hepatocyte-based in vitro model for identification of drug candidates showing risk for drug-induced cholestasis. The model has been mechanistically validated by bile acid profiling in sandwich-cultured hepatocytes. Computational expertise includes in vitro-in vivo extrapolation (IVIVE) algorithms for clearance prediction (SimCYP, R), compartmental and non-compartmental pharmacokinetic data analysis, as well as population pharmacokinetic analysis (NONMEM) of clinical exposure data. The group has taken the lead in generation of large in vitro transporter inhibition data sets leading to in silico models for structure-based prediction of transporter inhibition. Bioanalytical activities include LC-UV/FLUO/MSMS for preclinical and clinical samples.


Pharmacometrics is the science of applying mathematical/statistical methods to amenable questions in drug development and therapy. Although a relatively young science (the name appeared first in 1982), it dates back to Widmark, Teorell and Dost, many decades earlier. However, only with the availability of (relatively) user-friendly software for nonlinear mixed effects modeling and affordable and powerful hardware, the specialty gained widespread application and recognition, as well as a much broader scope after 1990. At the drug delivery and disposition unit, Pharmacometrics  was established as independent specialty in 2016 and focuses on the application of parametric (NONMEM) and nonparametric (Pmetrics) methods for parameter identification and simulation (Berkeley Madonna, Pmetrics). Applications range from the quantitative description of drug metabolism in cell culture systems to the optimization of dosing regimens in patients across multiple therapeutic areas. An ongoing area of research is the optimization of dose finding methods and making computer assisted dose finding available to physicians without pharmacometric training at the point of care. We also offer in-house consulting to clinicians studying the dosing regimen-exposure-response relationship of drugs.

Pharmaceutical Technology

The study of formulation strategies and manufacturing processes is the research topic of the Pharmaceutical Technology research group of Drug Delivery and Disposition. The aim is to correlate the physical structure of the drug delivery system to the drug release kinetics and stability profile, and to correlate formulation and processing parameters tot he resulting physical structure. The group is worldwide recognized for expertise in the field of amorphous materials and solid (molecular) dispersions of poorly soluble drugs.

  • Formulation strategies studied:
    • Amorphous solid dispersions
    • Nanosuspensions
    • Mesoporous silica based drug delivery
    • Oral delayed and extended release dosage forms
    • Solid mAb particles
    • Fixed dose combinations
  • Processing technologies studied:
    • Spray drying
    • Spray congealing
    • Electrospraying (single and co-axial nozzle)
    • Fluidized-bed bead coating
    • Hot-melt extrusion
    • Compression/Compaction
    • Wet bead milling
    • Cryo-milling
    • Freeze-drying
  • Analytical techniques used:
    • Thermal analysis (DSC, MDSC, hot-stage microscopy, isothermal microcalorimetry, solution calorimetry)
    • X-Ray powder diffraction
    • HPLC-UV
    • Infrared spectroscopy
    • In vitro (intrinsic) dissolution testing
    • SEM, TEM
    • NMR
    • Particle sizing (LD, DLS, Coulter counter)

The Pharmaceutical Technology research group of Drug Delivery and Disposition is also involved in formulation screening and preformulation studies for pharmaceutical companies.        






In the picture

Symposium 23rd June

Centre for Bio-analytical Research Leuven - CBRL

Pharmaceutical Solid State Research Cluster - PSSRC

Centre for Drug Delivery and Analysis - CDDA

Supersaturation under scrutiny