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Kate Tolan, Trinity College Dublin
March 7, 2024

I am a third year PhD student in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in Trinity College Dublin working under the supervision of Prof. Anne Marie Healy and Prof. Helen Sheridan. My work aims to apply processing and pharmaceutical formulation to traditional medicinal tinctures, with a focus on Echinacea Purpurea, and to create modernised, versatile and stable bioactive formulations. This work has the potential to impact the quality, safety and efficacy of Echinacea Purpurea products through an improved understanding of its phytochemical profile and how to retain this during processing, as well as through optimising its formulations. I am also currently investigating the use of NADES (Natural Deep Eutectic Solvents) as a replacement for the organic solvents that are used in traditional medicinal tinctures. The use of NADES as alternative extraction solvents has the potential to have significant environmental impact.

In the second year of my PhD, I spent four months as an intern in Janssen Pharmaceutica in Beerse, Belgium as part of the SSPC PhD placement programme. Janssen is a premier global pharmaceutical company focusing on developing medicines in the areas of cardiovascular diseases, immunology, neuroscience, oncology, and pulmonary hypertension. The Janssen campus in Beerse is a major innovation hub. It brings together a unique mix of expertise, skills and partnerships in research and development, manufacturing, and the launch of new drugs.

During my placement I had the opportunity to work between two teams – the parenterals and liquid formulation development (PLD) group and the discovery team. PLD focuses on late-stage formulation development, after absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion (ADME) investigations have been successful. The discovery group focuses on early-stage screening of formulations. Being involved in both these teams gave me a great overview of the research and development function in Janssen. It also highlighted the importance of clear communication and having some flexibility in your work timeframe.

During my time in Janssen I had the opportunity to work on a range of formulations including long-acting injections, lipid-based systems, and micro- and nano-suspensions. My PhD work focuses on oral solid dosage forms and so this was a lovely opportunity to expand my knowledge beyond the scope of my PhD and to further my understanding of some innovative formulation approaches.

While in Janssen I joined the postdoc and PhD student community. I was a member of the community’s steering group and was involved in the organisation of work-in-progress meetings where students had the opportunity to present their research. I was also involved in fireside chats with Janssen’s senior leaders, where the community had the opportunity to discuss career pathways. This was a great opportunity to network with PhD students who work in industry and to compare our experiences.

Another highlight of my internship was a tour of the formulation pilot plant which gave me a great perspective on the parameters which need to be considered when scaling up a formulation for clinical trial.

My placement was a very worthwhile experience which allowed me to expand my pharmaceutical knowledge and provided a lot of clarity about how I would like my career to progress. Certainly, a highlight of my PhD to date!

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