Philip Morris USA - The Center for Research & Techology

January 27, 2009 - The Center for Research & Technology opened in 2007 at a cost of $350 million is home to approximately 500 scientists, engineers and support personnel.

A Richmond Times-Dispatch review of thousands of pages of patent records, government permits and scientific journals shows some of what Philip Morris' research focuses on:

• microscopic particles of metals -- smaller than four one-millionths of an inch -- that might neutralize toxins in burning tobacco leaf;

• gels and beads of silica to put in filters or tobacco to absorb toxins;

• tubes, tiny cones, meshes and other plastic shapes for filters to make it easier to ventilate and dilute smoke while still allowing a full dose of nicotine; and

• gelatin strips that can be put in the mouth to release nicotine. "I do expect cigarette firms to continue to pursue nicotine-delivery products that do not involve setting tobacco on fire, at least for some more time, because the demand potential is substantial for them," Rajeev K. Goel, an Illinois State University economist who focuses on tobacco-control issues, said when asked about the Times-Dispatch review of patents.

Philip Morris researchers have experimented with strips of tobacco encased in gelatin or gum that dissolve in a user's mouth. Some involve tobacco particles only three one-thousandths of an inch wide.

Still other researchers have applied for patents for pouches of fabric or paper that hold tobacco in the mouth.

"These products are also directly responding to the increasing adoption worldwide of bans on smoking in public places, and of course the need to attract new customers," Lee said.

Philip Morris also is working on inhalers, but it says the devices aren't intended to replace cigarettes.

"You have to be careful reading too much into patents," Jack Nelson, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Altria Group, Philip Morris' corporate parent. said.

The Philip Morris inhaler work has focused on devices that release sprays of droplets or particles far smaller than what's now on the market -- as small as one ten-thousandth of an inch, or one-tenth to one-twentieth the size of the smallest now available. The inhalers are powered by tiny pumps to deliver their mists deeper into the lungs, and patents cover precise dosage meters and sensors to coordinate delivery of the mist with a user's inhaled breath. One is for a disposable inhaler.

Philip Morris scientists, with their basic interest in smoke, have looked for many years at how heat moves tiny airborne particles. That led to devices that create fine mists with heat. The company thought it might license the technique and market it to pharmaceutical firms as an inhaler. It shut down the subsidiary marketing the idea three years ago, but it still is filing applications to patent inhalers -- six in the past two years.

"This isn't a substitute for a cigarette," Nelson said. He said that while inhalers could deliver nicotine, smokers want things other than nicotine -- a view some public-health officials agree with -- that they get from tobacco smoke or tobacco placed in their mouths.

"Our products are tobacco products," he said. There already are plenty of products that deliver nicotine by itself, such as smoking-cessation aids, and "that's a bit of a crowded space now," he said.

Reference: SPECIAL REPORT: Searching for tobacco’s future by David Ress, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 12/14/2008.

Related news brief: PM USA Invests in R & D..



January 28, 2009 at 2:15 AM

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