Human-curated databases enable formulators to efficiently source information
Developing innovative products – including pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, agrochemicals, and consumer goods – hinges upon the formulating process. Formulating can make or break a product: they must be safe, functional, stable, and usable, with the right combination and amounts of active ingredients and excipients to achieve effectiveness and meet regulatory requirements while maximizing commercial success.
Despite the undeniable importance of formulations, gathering and accessing the information needed to create them can be hugely challenging and inefficient. This takes valuable time away from innovation and can cause significant delays in products being developed and released to market.
Here, we consider a number of the common challenges faced by formulators and how new research solutions are helping to overcome them.
Formulators bring innovations to market
Formulators are responsible for taking active ingredients and finding optimal ways to deliver them in a viable, scalable form. The formulating process varies by sector and company size, but a typical workflow begins when a formulator is given a ‘big picture’ view of a desired product. The formulator then researches how they would go about producing this – they define their goals, explore other successful products, and search for compatible technologies and existing baseline formulations. They research the physical forms, excipients, amounts and concentrations, and materials they may need, ensure they are aware of relevant budgetary, regulatory, and manufacturing requirements, and create a feasible, actionable way to develop a formulation with the necessary properties.
As product development progresses, formulators remain heavily involved, performing numerous complex iterations to continually improve the formulation ‘recipe’. This stage, the ‘D’ in R&D, takes time. Pharmaceuticals, for instance, can remain in this stage for up to seven years.
Information requirements present unique challenges to formulation experts
Formulation development is far from easy, with most companies – a significant 60% – experiencing challenges that can cause projects to be delayed or even to fail entirely. Given the many hurdles formulators have to overcome, such as sourcing materials and meeting manufacturing requirements, this is perhaps not entirely surprising. As consumer demands and regulatory guidelines continue to evolve, the formulation landscape is set to become more complex, so it is essential that formulators are armed with research resources they need.
Data is critical for formulation success. For efficient product development, formulators need access to information regarding existing formulations, the physical and chemical properties of particular ingredients (from melting point to pH to solubility, for instance), and the potential sources and costs of these ingredients. In addition, they need to review regulatory information to stay on top of the latest health and safety and environmental requirements. Patent information needs to be researched to ensure a formulation will not infringe upon any other IP rights, and to identify potential areas of white space and opportunities for further innovation. Consumer preferences also need to be understood and considered in product design.
All of this information is available, however, it currently exists across multiple sources, including internet searches, chemical suppliers, patent literature, peer-reviewed publications, regulatory information, internal databases, and marketed products. Not only are these sources disparate, but they are also often insufficient and uncurated, making information gathering a very time-consuming process. As such, formulation research is highly inefficient, with 25% of a formulator’s time spent gathering data. Worse still, formulators often have to work with data gaps, which cause greater inefficiencies by increasing the number of required iterations further down the line.
Research tools for formulators will improve efficiency and accelerate formulation development
Formulating is an essential step in the product development workflow, so it is crucial that formulators have access to the information they need. Making this element of R&D more effective and efficient is key to success in ever more competitive markets. By enabling formulators to steer clear of potential regulatory pitfalls, and identify white space from existing patent data, companies can gain a competitive edge.
New solutions have the potential to make a significant impact here by supporting the complex information needs of formulation scientists while alleviating existing pressures. One such solution is Formulus®, an integrated formulation research tool that helps formulators save time and improve efficiency.
Formulus is a single comprehensive search platform containing millions of formulations: a centralized database compiled from sources such as product inserts, published literature, patent documentation, supplier information, and more. This brings a myriad of complex streams of data together in a single place for quick and easy information searches. Curated by experienced scientific professionals, Formulus ensures that users can search using natural language and retrieve accurate, relevant, and comprehensive results.
A number of the challenges facing formulators are illustrated in the infographic below, alongside the key benefits that a robust, human-curated, one-stop shop database of formulations, supplier, and regulatory data – such as that offered by Formulus – offers to formulation scientists.
More efficient formulation for faster product development
Formulators experience unique challenges in sourcing the information they require. They need to save time, improve efficiency across every stage of the development process (from initial research to number of iterations), stay abreast of new products and access up-to-date knowledge, and feel confident that they are beginning the formulation process from a truly informed baseline.
Human-curated research tools remove hurdles to allow formulators to do what they do best and focus on innovating. New and improved formulations can be developed more efficiently and released quicker to market. By investing in such tools, companies across all sectors of industry can avoid time delays, reduce associated costs, and expedite their R&D efforts – helping them stay ahead of the competition and achieve commercial success.