Two professors honored with SIUE Graduate School award

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s Felix Lee, PhD, and Tim McPherson, PhD, have received the Graduate School’s Concept Commercialization Award for 2020. The award provides $14,600 through May 1, 2021.

Lee, professor of industrial engineering in the SIUE School of Engineering, and McPherson, professor of pharmaceutical sciences in the SIUE School of Pharmacy, have designed an automated system for pharmacists to fill capsules with liquid drugs. This will allow pharmacists to produce liquid-filled capsules more accurately and quickly. It will also decrease the risk of airborne particles that occurs when filling capsules with powdered drugs.

Lee (left in photo) and McPherson (righ in photo) analyzed an opportunity as draft regulations for pharmacies are specifically focused on increasing the safety of pharmacy personnel by decreasing airborne drug particles. Installing air handling and filtration systems for the pharmacy is an expensive method to achieve that goal. Lee and McPherson had a different idea.

“Another solution is to decrease the number of powdered drugs utilized, so airborne particles are not generated in the first place,” McPherson said. “Pharmacists can fill compatible liquids into gelatin shells by hand, but that process is tedious and prone to error. Our proposed system automates this manual process, saving labor cost and minimizing human errors.”

Lee and McPherson are helping pharmacists as they face the choice of investing in technology to meet the safety guidelines or getting out of the business of producing customized medications for patients. “The ability to easily fill liquids into capsules will help pharmacies continue to serve their patients and comply with the new regulations,” Lee said. “The automated system is not only more economically viable than the manual liquid filling, but also prevents inaccurate doses or human errors such as double-filling or skipping some capsules and spilling some doses.”

Lee and McPherson’s relationship has developed over the years. “With the introduction of the new safety regulations for pharmacies, I approached Dr. Lee about developing the new system that could replace the current manual powder-filling capsule production process for customized compounding pharmacies,” McPherson said.

Lee’s and McPherson’s varied talents complement one another. McPherson has expertise in drug delivery and pharmaceuticals, while Lee’s expertise is in product design and engineering development. Their understanding of each other’s area makes communicating and problem-solving quite easy. Their current project can be simplified to a list of specifications, so defining the parameters and their agreement on the performance limits is critical to the project’s success.

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