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Aaron O’Sullivan’s SSPC placement at JnJ Ireland
July 2, 2024

Aaron O’Sullivan, a PhD student at the University of Limerick has recently completed an SSPC industrial placement position in Johnson & Johnson (JnJ), Little Island, Cork. Aaron is supervised by SSPC investigators, Associate Professor Luis Padrela and Professor Kevin M. Ryan, Chemical Sciences Department and the Bernal Institute, University of Limerick and was reporting to Trevor Byrne during his time in JnJ.

I am currently in the 4th year of my PhD program based in the University of Limerick. My research primarily focuses on the production of pharmaceutical cocrystals, as an effective means by which the solubility and/or dissolution of a drug molecule may be enhanced. The prevalence of poor solubility in pharmaceutical compounds is a major issue in the pharmaceutical industry, preventing the absorption of much-needed medications. My research specifically focuses on the ability of continuous manufacturing techniques to control both particle size and solid-state form of the final drug particles.

During the 4th year of my PhD program, I was afforded an amazing opportunity, to undertake an industrial placement in JnJ Pharmaceutical Sciences UC in Cork. With a focus of advancing medicine through science, JnJ, the pharmaceutical arm of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies, aims to treat and prevent diseases with a large impact throughout the world. The site in Little Island, Cork in which I was based, is a major manufacturing site for the production of bulk active pharmaceutical ingredients that are exported throughout the world to be further processed into tablets, injectables and creams. These final products can then be employed in the treatment of HIV, and a range of gastrointestinal and psychiatric disorders.

During my time on site, I worked with the MSAT department (Manufacturing Science and Technology). My time was primarily spent in the MSAT chemistry lab, a non-GMP development lab used for ad-hoc process support and lab-scale processing to address issues that present themselves on plant. The team also provide technical support as process chemists/engineers to operations. In this role, I aided in investigations surrounding product PSD variations/optimizations, loss on drying studies and troubleshooting impurity profiles. While reporting to Trevor Byrne, I was mentored by Hannah McTague, an SSPC alumni and Michelle Ryan. Working with such experienced chemists, I gained valuable insights into the complexities of regulatory filings and API manufacturing process development. Working within a collaborative department like MSAT, I gained an in depth understanding of the overall manufacturing processes on site.

I was heavily involved in two projects onsite. One project surrounded the difficulties in product separation during centrifugation. In order to investigate this, a two-pronged approach was adopted which included lab-scale process development to improve product/crystal characteristics, as well as process data collection and analysis to identify areas of improvement/standardisation. My findings from this investigation will be implemented on site to improve the final product characteristics. I was also involved in coupon testing, preforming lab-scale synthesis, and crystallizations in order to determine drug product compatibility with reactor materials on site, providing a logic behind technical transfer within areas on site.

My industrial placement experience has excited me as to the possibility of a career in industry following the completion of my PhD, working in such a dynamic and fast-paced environment with like-minded and supportive individuals. I am grateful for all the staff in MSAT in JnJ who supported and encouraged me throughout my time there. Overall, my placement has shown me the role of PhD graduates in industry, and outlined even more clearly, the many career paths available to me in this industry following graduation.

I am grateful to be undertaking a PhD program with SSPC, allowing me to take advantage of such opportunities for career development and for building relationships outside of academia.

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