Dr Sarah Hayes
Chief Operations Officer (COO), SSPC
Professor Anne Marie Healy
SSPC, Co-Principal Investigator, Trinity College Dublin
An innovative academic-industry research collaboration in Ireland is developing new technologies for medicines and transforming the next generation of young scientists.
Patient treatments for a range of diseases and conditions are changing, with a shift towards a more personalised approach to care.
Yet underpinning this is a complex research process to develop innovative technologies to address key challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry.
Providing in-depth research
Playing a pivotal role is SSPC (the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Pharmaceuticals), which delivers scientific and engineering research expertise to companies in need of tailored solutions to bespoke challenges.
Led by the University of Limerick, it involves academics (or investigators), Higher Education institutes, PhD students and post-doctoral researchers from across the country and brings them together with industry and specialist research institutes.
Professor Anne Marie Healy, SSPC Co-Principal Investigator at Trinity College Dublin, says: “We are looking to improve our understanding of all facets of the drug product development pipelines – from the molecule to the medicine – not just on manufacturing, but also on performance and clinical effectiveness to ultimately improve patient outcomes.”
A lot of the work we are doing is very applicable; it ends up making a difference to industry, and ultimately to patients.Dr Sarah Hayes
Establishing industry links
Rather than focusing on specific disease states, SSPC looks at developing products and solutions with a multi-disciplinary approach involving material scientists, engineers, pharmaceutical chemists and mathematic modellers.
Professor Healy adds: “By being so closely connected with industry we see the problems they are facing in terms of developing and improving the manufacturing processes and of addressing the needs of patients.”
SSPC Chief Operations Officer Dr Sarah Hayes explains that the wider collaborations are developing people with the skill sets required of industry and providing opportunities for students to become the next generation of scientists.
Creating a greater talent pool
The SSPC is fuelling the talent pipeline for the pharmaceutical sector, putting young people at the forefront of product development in the biopharmaceutical space.
Dr Hayes says: “We are the largest producer of PhD graduates in Ireland transitioning into the pharma industry. The interdisciplinarity is unique and that filters down, so PhD students get full exposure to all aspects of pharmaceutical work.
“That is important in preparing students for that transition from academia to industry. In industry, you are an expert in a particular area, but you need to have that full breadth and understanding of how a medicine comes all the way through the pipeline.”
Professor Healy concludes: “A lot of the work we are doing is very applicable; it ends up making a difference to industry, and ultimately to patients.”