Next Generation of Nebulisers for Efficient Respiratory Drug Delivery.

Respiratory disorders such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis, are known as the main cause of death and disability in the world, with an estimated cost of €400bn. In the UK, the British Lung Foundation estimates that 10,000 people are diagnosed with a lung disorder every week with a £9.9bn direct cost for NHS and £1.2bn cost to the wider economy.

These diseases are generally treated by inhalation of drugs. Dr. Nazarzadeh, together with Professor Jonathan Cooper in the James Watt School of Engineering, have developed a low-cost, efficient nebuliser platform, which enables delivery of the next generation drugs: Nebu-flow. The platform, now developed by Acu-Flow Limited, a spin-out company from University of Glasgow, uses patented surface acoustic wave (SAW) technology to deliver drug particles in a breathable mist.

Unlike conventional nebulisers, the Nebu-Flow device can more accurately control the delivery of drugs through superior control of droplet formation, size and dispersion, allowing therapeutics to travel deeper into the lungs and treat patients more effectively. This ultimately reduces wastage and enables the use of more expensive pharmaceuticals, as well as enabling new treatments that were previously not administrable through inhalation.

The team behind Nebu-Flow sought funding to develop their innovations further down the translation pathway by gaining market research data and further commercial knowledge in this area (Stage 2, Concept validation). In partnership with pharmaceutical companies, they are looking to generate more clinical data to prove the device is capable of administering new drugs that previously could not be inhaled.

Dr. Nazarzadeh received an MRC Impact Accelerator Account (IAA) Award (previously known as an MRC Confidence in Concept, CiC Award), through the MVLS Translational Research Initiative (Funding opportunities). With the funds, the group at Nebu-Flow were able to progress their technology to the next stage of commercialisation. The validation of the technology and engagement with leading companies in the field allowed the platform to be tested against industry standards and characterisation requirements (Stage 3&4, Concept validation & Progression). They were also able to present their findings at conferences and exhibitions, engaging widely with industry, confirming the requirements for new nebulisers, their competitive edge and the route to market. These crucial steps to their success enabled real world validation of Nebu-Flow technology.

Currently, Nebu-Flow performance has shown an impressive increase in the aerosol inhalable fraction of drugs, of up to 60% improvement, when compared with current, best-in-class products. Looking into the future, the team are focusing on product development and further validation with industry partners. The device is now being transformed from a lab prototype into an optimised bench top device. The next stage will be to miniaturise the system into a hand-held device.

Nebu-Flow technology has won an impressive number of awards, including recognition of scientific merit and succeeding in commercialisation opportunities. Dr Nazarzadeh was awarded an InnovateUK-funded ICURe and RSE Unlocking Ambition Fellowship. This grant led to Nebu-Flow being awarded The Higgs Prize from the prestigious Scottish Edge Competition, as well as the Institute of Physics Lee Lucas Business Start-Up Award, which recognises and celebrates early stage companies taking innovative products into the medical and healthcare sector. Nebu-Flow have also secured an oversubscribed £1.7m investment round to further the commercialisation and delivery of respiratory pharmaceuticals.

Nebu Flow Acu Flow drug delivery device image

Left Dr Nazarzadeh accepting the Scottish Edge Higgs Award. Top Right 3D-printed prototype; 3D-printed prototype nebulisation; lab prototype being evaluated by industry-standard Anderson Cascade Impactor. Bottom Right Miniaturised Nebu-Flow Nebuliser device design.

There is future potential for this platform to be expanded into personalised medicine and gene-based therapies, which will require new delivery solutions. The need for mobile, low-maintenance nebulisers, to deliver the next generation of drugs will have the potential to improve the quality of life for millions of people with chronic pulmonary disease.

For more information, contact or find updates on The Nebu-Flow website and Twitter page. If you are seeking translational funding for your research, please contact