Our world-leading research programme is defined through its unique collaboration abilities and building R&D excellence in one of Ireland’s largest industries. SSPC has a broad research capability that encompasses scientific expertise in small and large molecule drug substance and drug product manufacturing with a particular emphasis on process optimisation, data analytics and ATMPs.
SSPC nurtures a talent pipeline of high calibre scientists and engineers for the sector, through our internal PhD training programme and various CPD mechanisms available to our industry partners. SSPC offers a unique proposition through its industry placement programme and 65% of SSPC graduates go on to be employed in industry both nationally and globally.
Since its inception, SSPC has successfully collaborated with over 46 industry partners, composed of indigenous and foreign operations, whose size range from small to multi-national. Collectively, this demonstrates a strong track-record in delivering applied research that enables industry to solve challenges leading to the development of better medicine. SSPC are developing innovative technologies to address key challenges facing the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industry.
International Research Funding won
Transition of Researchers to Industry
Education & Public Engagement Activities
- Lena Kadri’s industry placement at ZentivaLena Kadri is a SSPC PhD based at Trinity College Dublin, took a 3-month placement with Zentiva Pharmaceutical Company in Prague, Czech Republic. Read about her work and experiences. My project is on improving the solubility of poorly soluble fluroquinolone drugs by amorphous polymeric salt formation (APSs) using a planetary Retsch ball mill. Additionally, my project is also on developing a mechanistic understanding of mechanochemistry while producing these APSs. Thus, the aims of this project are to improve the solubility of fluoroquinolone drugs by preparation of Amorphous Polymeric Salts (APSs) and to discover a mechanistic understanding of mechanochemistry via ball milling process. It is essential to develop and manufacture drugs which are highly soluble in nature in order to increase the bioavailability of that drug, and thus, improve the therapeutic effect of that drug on the patient. APSs is an extremely promising approach to improving the properties of poorly soluble drugs as it includes a combination of amorphisation and ionisation. This technique not only aids solubility enhancement, but it also improves the stability of the formulation, which also remains a challenge facing the pharmaceutical industry today. Ball milling is an advantageous process which can successfully facilitate particle size reduction, amorphisation and polymorphic transformations. This process also implements green chemistry as it does not require the use of solvents. The mechanism behind mechanochemistry has yet to be fully explored and understood. It is essential to fill this unknown gap to successfully carry out ball milling in the future so that this process can be used to manufacture amorphous drugs, which are known to have a higher solubility and dissolution rate than crystalline drugs. Once this gap is filled, it will be possible to implement ball milling as a manufacturing process, to produce amorphous drugs on a large scale, without the use of solvents. This project offers many benefits such as improving patients’ lives by increasing the solubility and bioavailability of drugs, enhancing the stability of the formulation through the use of polymers and ionisation, and by providing a process which is environmentally friendly and does not negatively impact human health or the environment around us. Overall Aims of my project: Improve poorly soluble BCS Class II and IV fluoroquinolone drugs Improve the stability of amorphous drugs through APS formation Reduce the amount of solvents used to form and manufacture APSs Establish a mechanistic understanding of mechanochemistry for APSs and amorphous solid dispersions (ASDs) to better understand mechanochemistry so the process can be scaled up in future Information on where you were placed? I was placed in Zentiva in Prague, Czech Republic from May-July 2022. I was a part of the pre formulations lab group. I had access to the office space and the lab whereby I was able to carry out my experiments and anlyse my results. The type of work you did? I ball milled binary (one polymer) and ternary (two polymers) APS fluoroquinolone formulations in TCD. These formulations were sent over to Zentiva, Czech Republic for further analysis. 16 formulations API and neutral, amphiphilic polymer API and acidic polymer API, acidic polymer and neutral, amphiphilic polymer API and two acidic polymers The following was carried out while on a three-month secondment in Zentiva, Prague, Czech Republic: solubility studies of 16 formulations in Aqueous and FeSSIF and FaSSIF buffers HPLC analysis XRPD analysis of solid formulation from solubility studies pKa studies of acidic polymers tablet formulation and disintegration of binary system precipitation of Ciprofloxacin (API) studies Did this fit into your PhD or did you learn something new? Yes, this fit into my PhD as I was able to continue my PhD project while in Zentiva and analyse all 16 formulations. Yes, I learnt an infinite amount of new information. I learnt how to carry out solubility studies, prepare aqueous, FeSSIF and FaSSIF buffers, how to set up and run HPLC, how to analyse HPLC results, and how to recognise when samples need further dilution in order to get accurate and reliable HPLC results. I learnt how to use multiple different apparatus and equipment while in Zentiva to get results needed for my project, such as pKa values of acidic polymers and precipitation of Ciprofloxacin. I also learnt how to design a tablet formulation so that my APSs/ASDs which consisted of the API and polymer(s) could be successfully tableted. Lastly, I learned how to carry out disintegration studies and detect whether a good tablet had been made based on how quickly the tablet disintegrated. The problems encountered during these experiments allowed me to further learn how to improve tablet disintegration without changing the formulation. This involved firstly making granules before directly tableting the powdered formulation. To conclude, the time spent at Zentiva greatly contributed towards my learning due to the wide exposure to new equipment and apparatus, and also, the wide network of skilled workforce that were happy to share their knowledge and expertise with me. What were the biggest differences you experienced on your industry placement i.e. workload, organisation, strategic thinking etc.? The biggest differences I experienced while on my industrial placement were the obvious hurdles you would expect, culture change, workforce, different way of operating and carrying out a project, changes from university setting to pharmaceutical protocol etc. However, all of these differences were refreshing and helped me to further grow and learn. What did you learn above all? I learnt just how important collaboration is. Collaborating with Zentiva allowed me to gain exposure to a wide range of experts and scientists with different skillsets. It was extremely interesting to see multiple people come together to solve a problem and how multiple perspectives and educational backgrounds can bring about a solution within minutes. Has this placement helped you with choosing a career in academia or industry? Yes and no, this placement has raised my awareness to the pros and cons to both industry and academia. The world of science excites me so much that it’s difficult to say which career path I would like to take indefinitely. All I know as of now, is that I want to continue to learn and develop as much as I can in order to become the best scientist that I can possibly become. This will allow me to contribute and give back in the best way that I can. I believe that this can be achieved in both academia and industry. Regardless of the career path I choose, I will ensure that I am always working on a project that is meaningful and that will bring about positive change and improvement to patients across the globe and to the environment. Overall, what do you think an industry placement means to a PhD/Post-doc researcher. I think an industrial placement means an opportunity to grow and develop as a scientist and researcher while carrying out a PhD or Post-doc role. I think it’s also an opportunity to embrace different cultures and ethnic backgrounds and work together as one, towards a common goal....Read more...
- Aswathy Balakrishnan’s secondment to Purdue UniversityAswathy Balakrishnan is a a third year PhD student with the EPSRC SFI Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Transformative Pharmaceutical Technologies at University College Dublin and NIBRT recently finished a 3-month secondment at Purdue University in the US. Speaking on her experiences, Aswathy said her research revolves around the rational design of biopharmaceutical drugs, specifically RNA. My work involves studying the stability and degradation of mRNA and mRNA lipid nanoparticles (mRNA-LNPs). During my secondment at Purdue University, I used a variety of analytical techniques to explore the physical stability of mRNA-LNPs and looked at the impact of the different stages of freeze-drying. I also got the chance to attend two international conferences and present my work to other professionals (in academia and industry) working in similar fields, helping me to expand my network. Apart from research, going on this international placement allowed me to meet new people and see new places, helping me learn so much, both professionally and personally....Read more...
- New Director appointed to SSPCProfessor Damien Thompson has been officially appointed the Director of SSPC the Science Foundation Ireland (SFI) Research Centre for Pharmaceuticals at the University of Limerick (UL). Limerick native, Professor Thompson has been interim director at SSPC since April 2022. He is Professor of Molecular Modelling at UL, leading the predictive materials modelling group at SSPC and the Bernal Institute at UL. His research focus is in the area of modelling and design of nano-structured materials for health and sustainability. Speaking about the role Professor Thompson said: “SSPC has been an enormous success to date and the opportunity to lead one of our world-class research centres is one I am very happy to take up. Thank you to previous co-directors Prof. Michael Zaworotko and Prof. Gavin Walker for paving the way and steering SSPC’s international recognition. I am in the very privileged position of being able to work with a broad range of stakeholders to drive forward a highly successful academic and industry partnership.” As Director of SSPC Professor Thompson will push SSPC’s research programme forward, working in partnership with the Principal Investigators across the partner third level institutions, international collaborators and industry partners. He will work to ensure that SSPC is positioned as a scientific leader Centre in pharmaceuticals, engaged in industry-guided research that goes beyond the state-of-the art. “At SSPC we work at the forefront of pharma and biopharma research, leveraging the collective expertise in the centre to drive innovation and bring our new science into industry, supporting smart manufacturing of sustainable drug products. For pharma and biopharma, this means more agile, leaner, more eco-friendly manufacturing of more effective, safer, more affordable medicines,” Prof Thompson added. Congratulating Professor Thompson on his appointment, UL’s VP President for Research, Prof. Norelee Kennedy, said: “I am delighted that Prof. Thompson has been appointed to the role of Director of SSPC. He is a natural leader, who has built a profile as an excellent academic over his career. SSPC is an important part of UL and our partner institutions’ strategic ambitions, and I am excited to work with him and SSPC to lead UL’s research for the next ten years. I look forward to working with him as we seek to expand its impactful research in tackling societal grand challenges in health and sustainability.” Damien has had multiple novel ideas and breakthroughs in research highlighted globally. He played a key part in the development of new molecular materials for health and sustainability applications, most recently in brain-inspired organic computing. His modelling group publishes regularly in world-leading journals including Nature, Nature Materials and Nature Chemistry. SSPC works right across the spectrum from crystallisation of small molecule drugs to bioprocessing of therapeutic antibodies and cells, with modelling and data underpinning and accelerating the research at every step....Read more...
- SFI Infrastructure ProgrammeThe SFI Research Infrastructure Programme facilitates broad usage across Ireland to encourage partnerships and collaboration between different cohorts of researchers in Ireland; for example, between universities, technological universities, Institutes of Technology, other eligible research bodies, researchers in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and between different cohorts of researchers in Ireland. Congratulations to our following researchers on their win: Prof. Andrew Kellett, Dublin City University (DCU): AUTOPILOT – high-throughput cell characterisation system. In 2022, in an application led by Prof. Andrew Kellett, DCU was awarded €2.41M for the AUTOPILOT system from SFI’s Infrastructure call. This system is a unique, custom build, robotically controlled platform enabling high-throughput cell characterisation including phenotyping by flow cytometry, high content analysis, proteomics, and cell culture analysis. It enables numerous automated workflows to be performed simultaneously, essentially facilitating analysis of any perturbation to cellular function by a large pool of compounds or in a number of model systems. Late diagnosis and a lack of curative treatments for aggressive cancers is likely to remain one of the most complex and expensive health issues of the 21st century in Ireland and beyond. Despite advances in our understanding of disease states and tandem targeted drug discoveries, clinical drug failure rates remain stubbornly high. This failure is partly associated with the analysis of complex disease states under narrow conditions with limited read-out and target pool screening capabilities. The AUTOPILOT system is a breakthrough robotic automated cell culture characterisation suite that can address this limitation. The system can perform multiple cellular phenotypic characterisation analyses to provide a global quantifiable measurement of both disease states and drug efficacy. The instrumentation cuts across multiple disciplines of intensive research focus in Ireland—including drug discovery and translational medicine—and will fundamentally strengthen both early- and late-stage research capabilities and enhance our ability to produce excellent science. In a national context, AUTOPILOT provides an interface to support researchers in their analyses of diagnostic and therapeutic biomarkers, and positions DCU at the centre of advances in Therapeutics, Diagnostics, Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, and Robotics. Prof. Anita Maguire, University College Cork (UCC): Fast reaction kinetics in NMR Spectroscopy This infrastructure will enable for the first time in Ireland, direct monitoring of fast reactions in real time by NMR spectroscopy, providing unparalleled insight into the details of reaction processes which are complete in 5-10 mins or less, which to date have been beyond the reach of investigation by NMR spectroscopy. The technology which has led to the InsightXpressMR system was developed over recent years through a collaboration between Bruker and Prof. Guy Lloyd-Jones (University of Edinburgh), and is only recently commercially available. We are particularly pleased to note the complementarity of this new system with the existing ProSpect infrastructure in UCC. While ProSpect was a game changer in terms of enabling direct monitoring of reactions in real time, addition of the InsightXpressMR system will enable expansion the scope of reactions which can be explored to include very fast transformations. The experience of the team in UCC in the establishment and use of ProSpect will ensure the effective embedding of the new infrastructure, complementing and adding to existing capability. A number of significant publications have already emerged through the establishment of ProSpect – we envisage similarly exciting developments through this new infrastructure focusing for the first time on fast reaction processes. Dr Luis Padrela and Vivek Ranade, University of Limerick (UL): Next Generation Nanopharma Process Development Platform (NaPRO) Dr Luis Padrela and Prof Vivek Renade’s NaPRO project was approved for funding from Science Foundation Ireland under the Research Infrastructure programme (Total €1,286M; SFI funding of €808). The goal of NaPRO (Next Generation Nanopharma Process Development Platform) is to provide cutting-edge pharmaceutical nanotechnologies coupled with real-time advanced characterization tools. NaPRO will be a unique state-of-the-art testbed with new ‘smart’ process systems, which will allow to de-risk the scalability and manufacture of nano(bio)pharmaceuticals and facilitate the adaptation of these technologies to existing industrial facilities. NaPRO will enable the development of robust and scalable compliant methods of production of nanomedicines that enable progression from a small production scale (in the mg range) to a commercially relevant scale (in the kg range). Bringing the processes, process equipments and comprehensive characterization tools under one roof in NaPRO will allow the development of next generation processes and manufacturing technologies to academic collaborators and pharma/biopharma industry, nationally and internationally, including drug developers. This will underpin the next generation manufacturing of (nano)medicines and will catapult Ireland into a leadership position in this area. This project has been fully endorsed by several national and international research centres such as CMAC and CPI (UK), RCPE (Austria), and pharmaceutical companies including Eli Lilly and TEVA. Prof. Kevin Ryan, University of Limerick (UL): The National Rechargeable Battery Fabrication and Test Facility (NRBFT) Professor Kevin Ryan’s project will co-fund with Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) a National Rechargeable Battery Fabrication and Test Facility at the University of Limerick. This one-stop-shop for battery development is not present anywhere else in Europe. It will combine electrode fabrication, cell assembly, testing and state-of-the-art materials characterisation within one location for the first time in Ireland. Prof. Peter McLoughin, SETU Waterford: Nanoscale Chemical Imaging System...Read more...
- SSPC investigator Prof. Mike Zaworotko and team have discovered a new material that can ‘trap and store’ volatile gasesThe research team, which includes international collaborators in Japan, the US and South Africa, have discovered a new class of porous materials or sorbents for trapping and storing volatile gases. The discovery has just been published in the world leading journal Nature Chemistry. The team is led by Dr Varvara Nikolayenko, formerly of the Department of Chemical Sciences and UL’s Bernal Institute, now working at Bayer AG and Professor Michael Zaworotko, Bernal Chair of Crystal Engineering and Science Foundation of Ireland Research Professor at UL’s Bernal Institute. The discovery is an extremely important one as there is an urgent need find to better ways to store volatile fuel (e.g., hydrogen and natural gas) and medicinal (e.g., oxygen and nitric oxide) gases, which currently require very high pressures or very low temperatures. “Traditional sorbents have interconnected holes and pores like a sponge. The new sorbents we have discovered are more like Swiss cheese in that they have empty space, but they are not interconnected by pores,” explained Professor Zaworotko. “Our new materials point towards an alternate approach to store such gases which is both less energy intensive and safer,” he added. The research team said the key findings included that the so-called ‘Swiss cheese’ sorbent expands when it is exposed to gases with very little structural rearrangement and thereby captures increasingly large quantities of gas as pressure is increased. “The changes in the sorbent are reversible so the gas can be easily removed, and the sorbent can be recycled for further use,” explained Dr Nikolayenko. “It is counterintuitive to expect a sorbent which has no pores to have the ability to trap volatile gases. This raises the question of whether there are many more such sorbents that are hiding in plain sight,” she added. The latest discovery builds on research Professor Zaworotko is carrying out at UL’s Bernal Institute in crystal engineering to tackle grand climate challenges. Last year, Professor Zaworotko and his team developed a new material that has the ability to capture toxic chemicals from the air. That material is capable of capturing trace amounts of benzene, a toxic pollutant, from the air and crucially use less energy than existing materials, which could revolutionise the search for clean air. Professor Zaworotko and his team have also previously discovered a material with favourable properties for absorbing and releasing water from the atmosphere that could revolutionise dehumidification systems in buildings and the availability of water in regions of drought. He explained: “People in science are driven by a dream. The dream is, in almost all cases, to have a positive impact on society. Water purification, carbon capture, cheaper and better pharmaceuticals, are just three examples of where crystal engineering could be the key and the pieces of that jigsaw puzzle are coming together now.” Source: www.ul.ie...Read more...
- The National Crystal Growing Competition 2023 launchedWednesday 25th Jan – Science Foundation Ireland research centres iCRAG, the SFI Research Centre for Applied Geosciences, and SSPC, the SFI Research Centre for Pharmaceuticals, have announced the 2023 National Crystal Growing Competition officially open. The competition is open to all primary and post-primary level students and individuals, challenging them to grow the biggest and highest quality single crystal. The National Crystal Growing Competition is an important scientific outreach activity that will challenge participants to grow crystals using ingredients readily available in the home. This is a fun hands-on STEM experience and an exciting competition that aims to introduce students to the exciting, challenging world of growing crystals. So, if you are looking for a fun and educational learning opportunity for students interested in chemistry, this is a great start. Martin McHugh, Project and Public Engagement Officer for SSPC commented: “It is through education and outreach activities such as this that we will inspire the next generation of scientists and crystallographers. The process is safe and simple, and is designed to encourage students to develop an interest in chemistry. One of the most fun ways to interact with future scientists is through this crystal growing competition.” Elspeth Sinclair, Education and Public Engagement Officer for iCRAG added: “The competition is open to individuals, in small groups or class groups from both primary and post-primary level. We encourage all students to enter to develop their scientific interest for this exciting challenge and try their hand at growing their own single crystals through this national contest that will be judged by professional chemists. We are looking forward to seeing the results and hope all those involved will understand and discover the science behind this process.” The National Crystal Growing Competition is an important component SFI’s public engagement remit. The aim of the competition is to have fun with science and also inspire young minds to explore careers in the field. The competition challenges individuals or groups to grow a single crystal from a variety of compounds such as: Salt (Sodium chloride or Potassium chloride), Alum, Sugar, or Copper sulphate. The competition originated in 2014 with the International Union of Crystallography (IUCr) Crystal growing competition, as part of the celebrations for the International Year of Crystallography. It has since grown from strength to strength and is a great addition to the many SFI outreach programmes hosted in Ireland. To enter the competition, participants must send a picture of their crystal to experts at iCRAG and SSPC before the closing date of April, 28, 2023. More information, including crystal recipes and growing instructions can be found on the National Crystal Growing Competition websites, bit.ly/crystalcomp and https://sspc.ie/education/. iCRAG is hosted at the University College Dublin and SSPC at the University of Limerick, both working with a host of partners....Read more...
- SSPC 2022 Research OutputsCheck out SSPC’s snapshot of some of our outputs throughout 2022, that illustrate the centre effect through which SSPC’s high impact science is enhanced by increased national and international engagement. SSPC provides the life sciences sector with a nationally distributed, research performing community that enables high impact, collaborative research between industry and academic partners. SSPC is funded by Science Foundation Ireland and proudly hosted by the University of Limerick working with eight higher-education institutes (HEIs) including Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, Dublin City University, University College Cork, University of Galway, Maynooth University, RCSI University of Medicine of Health Sciences and SETU Waterford. ...Read more...
- UCC receives award for sustainable lab practiceDr F. Jerry Reen’s lab in the BioSciences Institute has recently been presented with the Bronze LEAF Award for their efforts in developing sustainable practices within the lab environment. The Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF) scheme was organised at University College Cork by Mr Pat Mehigan and the GreenLab Team. In a practical sense, the LEAF is designed to deliver a structured path for improvements in laboratory efficiency and energy conservation, making the lab and its environment more sustainable. “We would encourage anyone interested in participating in the LEAF scheme to contact the GreenLab Team. It made a significant difference to our energy conservation efforts in the lab and we can already see the carbon and financial savings arising from improvements made under this scheme” Mr David Woods (Senior Researcher and LEAF Project Lead in the Reen lab) Pictured: Mr David Woods (left) being presented with the Bronze LEAf Award on behalf of the Reen lab in the BioSciences Institute. Also receiving a Bronze LEAF Award is Dr Francis Harrington (School of Chemistry)....Read more...
- Future of Manufacturing 2022Prof. Damien Thompson, SSPC Director talks about the Future of Manufacturing with insight from experts in the field on how SSPC and many others are working to ensure pharma manufacturing is efficient enough for the future. “Sustainability is not just the agenda, it is the agenda”. Read up on other topics such as industry 4.0 and 5.0, new technology, sustainable manufacturing and net zero, digitalisation and robotics/AI, future skills for the sector and career opportunities, automation and more. Read how SSPC is enabling efficient manufacturing for the future here Flick through the full digital output here #FutureofManufacturingCampaign2022...Read more...
- Winners of the DCU Invent Commercialisation AwardCongratulations to both groups who work with SSPC at the National Institute for Cellular Biotechnology, Dublin City University (DCU), who have been recognised for their contribution to a successful collaborative research projects at the 2022 DCU Invent Commercialisation Awards. Assoc. Prof. Andrew Kellett, PhD student Alex Gibney and Anne McGrath for a collaborative SSPC project with MSD Ireland, pictured below being presented with the award by Prof. Daire Keogh, DCU President. Also congratulations to Prof. Martin Clynes, Dr Finbarr O’Sullivan, Dr Joanne Keenan, PhD students Martha Faulkner and Niamh Rock who also received an award in recognition of their contribution to a successful collaborative research project with Alltech....Read more...
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SSPC’s world-leading Research Programme
Our unique and innovative culture of collaboration is helping the global pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industry to develop more environmentally sustainable methods for drug manufacturing; to increase the range of medicines available to the public and to reduce drug manufacturing costs. SSPC’s advanced research programme extends from Molecule, Materials and Medicine into the Manufacturing and Modelling space.
These themes focus on developing new methodologies for the asymmetric synthesis of APIs, molecules & methods for automated & in-flow generation of targeted drug hybrids & new therapeutic agents.
Advancing the understanding of single-component crystalline materials (SCCMs) and, especially, multi-component crystalline materials (MCCMs) in order to enable improved orally delivered drug products.
Optimising the development, production & use of safe, effective medicines with focus on poorly soluble drugs, personalized, age appropriate medicines & rational formulation approaches with predictive performance.
Enabling a disruptive change in manufacture of drug substances & drug products, through the development & implementation of continuous manufacturing, flow chemistry & end-to-end manufacturing methodologies.