The PHASAL project is fashioning new biodegradable bioplastics from agri-food waste for medical applications such as transdermal patches and suture kits which will minimise their environmental impact.

Specifically, it is to develop new grades of biodegradable plastics (PHA) obtained from the recovery of organic waste, thus affording them advanced processability and biocompatibility properties, which will be used for healthcare applications where recycling options are very restricted. A methodology is to be devised and implemented for accelerated biodegradability testing of these new materials which will facilitate processes for developing new bio-based materials.

This will help to meet the environmental challenges of the healthcare sector where more than 50 percent of the plastic employed is single-use due to hygiene and sterilisation requirements.

These new organic-based and biodegradable materials, which can be adapted to complex geometries and injection processes, will be tapped to develop and test two applications: a dermal patch for releasing drugs with a lower environmental impact and a biodegradable suture kit, a product with complex packaging and widely used in the healthcare sector.

“PHASAL is a groundbreaking project in which VEnvirotech is eagerly and proactively engaged and represents a significant milestone in the convergence between industry and research in healthcare,” says Germán Perez, head of the VEomaterial department at VEnvirotech. “As a leading expert in the production of polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHAs), VEnvirotech is playing a crucial role in this project by furnishing innovative and sustainable solutions for two distinct product cases.”

Moreover, “the choice of bio-based and biodegradable materials such as PHAs is critical for a more sustainable future, and VEnvirotech’s expertise in this field ensures that PHASAL is at the forefront of responsible innovation,” he adds. “Teaming up with the primary industry and research players will drive the development of sustainable solutions that will benefit future generations while fostering excellence in the healthcare industry.”

The project “is to develop new advanced bioplastic formulations and characterise these innovative materials while testing their processing and validation in healthcare along with other sectors and applications to which their use can be extrapolated,” points out Enric Fontdecaba, director of Eurecat‘s Polymeric and Composite Processes Unit.

“The project is a technological challenge which involves studying the application of new biodegradable plastics (PHAs) as drug release systems,” adds Luis J. del Valle, a PSEP-UPC group researcher. “So these bioactive agents will be encapsulated in PHAs. A key milestone will be to establish the interactions between the PHA and the bioactive agents because dosage and release depend on it.” To understand these important molecular interactions, “chemical and structural characterisation of PHAs is needed. These new bioactive agent-releasing systems will be used to prepare dermal and/or transdermal patches and will be evaluated in cell cultures and preclinical studies to determine their biomedical application.”

The PHASAL consortium is a partnership between VEnvirotech Biotechnology, Industria Técnica del Plástico (INTEPLAST), Eurecat and the PSEP (Synthetic Polymers:  Structure and Property. Biodegradable Polymers) research group at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia.

The project has a budget of more than €800,000, will run for three years and is funded by the call for “Public-Private Partnership Projects under the National Plan for Scientific, Technical and Innovation Research 2021-2023 as part of the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan”.