High-throughput screening platform for skin penetration and permeability for dermal drugs and skin care products


The skin is one of the most readily accessible tissues for delivery of drugs and therapeutics. Improving skin permeation and retention is a major focus for new drugs and skin care products. In the development stage of transdermal drugs, it’s important to probe permeability and test delivery methods in a high-throughput, cost-effective, and simple manner. The gold standard for testing such properties is the Franz method which positions a sample, usually human skin, in a tube. The Franz method suffers from low throughput and expensive tissue requirements. To overcome these limitations, the parallel artificial membrane permeability assay (PAMPA) system positions an artificial membrane over a 96-well plate. Unfortunately, the artificial membrane used with the PAMPA system is not as accurate in modeling permeability and retention as systems that use actual skin samples. There is a huge need for a high-throughput method of screening large numbers of drug formulations against whole skin tissue samples for retention and permeability.

The Smyth Lab at The University of Texas at Austin has developed a high-throughput dermatological formulation screening platform that allows for direct quantification of drug permeability and retention across the skin. Using a 96-well plate based method, skin was successfully analyzed to determine drug distribution within the skin. When comparing the permeability and drug distribution profiles of an example drug, the Smyth Lab found that their high-throughput method gave the same results as the gold standard Franz Method.1 This improved platform allows for direct screening of large numbers of formulation parameters of drug delivery on real human skin tissue. The Smyth Lab is looking for industry partners to develop new skin-penetrating formulations with better permeability and absorption, thus improving dermal drugs and skin care products.


1. Martins, P. et al., Int J Pharm, 2019 Jun 30;565:557-568. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpharm.2019.05.044