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SSPC celebrating 15 years – Our Directors past and present
June 6, 2023

SSPC, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Pharmaceuticals is a world-leading hub for pharmaceutical research and development. As we continue to push forward, this year we reflect on the remarkable trajectory that has built 15 years of success and impact, which was made possible by the tireless efforts of all our researchers and support teams across Ireland, our industry partners and co-creators of our science, and our international network of academic collaborators.

Now in its second phase of funding as a centre, under the directorship of Prof. Damien Thompson, SSPC is the largest producer of PhD graduates for the biopharma sector in Ireland. SSPC has 49 industry partners, currently working across 54 projects, addressing current and future challenges for the sector with 41% of all collaborative industry research through global sites and 40% of SSPC industry members engage through their global sites and Irish sites.

Our Scientific Director Prof. Damien Thompson, a world leader in molecular modelling of sustainable materials, says that the centre’s agility and pioneering research in data-driven materials and process development are key to its success.

“Our goal is to ensure that Ireland remains a leader in pharmaceutical research and development by delivering new science that addresses patient needs. Our researchers are providing new opportunities for patient treatment utilising digital health, AI-driven materials development, precision medicine and nanomedicine.”

Prof. Kieran Hodnett, SSPC Director (2008-2017), Prof. Mike Zaworotko and Prof. Gavin Walker, SSPC Co-Directors (2017-2022) and Prof. Damien Thompson SSPC Director (2022-present)

The centre has achieved remarkable success in helping to develop innovative medicines, deliver new treatments to patients, and creating PhD researchers for the Irish pharmaceutical industry. We have made significant strides in understanding and addressing many diseases including cancer and neurodegeneration.

SSPC has been a leader in the industry for many years, and its directors have left a legacy that will continue to guide us into the future.

Looking back on his time with SSPC, founder Prof. Kieran Hodnett remembers the proposal was selected for funding in 2008. This cluster was funded for 6 years, with a total budget of €6M from SFI. SSPC rapidly grew and established itself as an international brand offering expertise in crystallisation and additional areas.

Following extensive consultations, an application was made to become a Centre focused on the pharmaceutical production chain from the synthesis of the molecule to the isolation of the material and the formulation of the medicine, delivered over three strands with further research into emerging areas including biologics funded through spoke project awards. In 2017, Prof Kieran Hodnett stood down, with Prof. Michael Zaworotko and Prof. Gavin Walker appointed the new co-directors of the centre.

Prof. Mike Zaworotko, Bernal Chair of Crystal Engineering is Ireland’s top ranked chemist and in the top 1% of global scientists. He has made a number of significant contributions to the field of crystalline materials. His research focuses on understanding how different types of molecules interact with each other, and how this can be used to create new materials for applications such as drug delivery and water purification.

Prof. Zaworotko said, “The centre, established as a first large-scale, multi-partner research collaboration, now boasts a critical mass of world-class people and established global presence. SSPC supports the pharmaceutical industry in Ireland which is the jewel in the crown of the Irish economy.”

Prof. Gavin Walker, Bernal Chair of Pharmaceutical Powder Engineering, is a world leader in particle/powder technology, process modelling and pharmaceutical engineering. In 2022, his group published the world’s first paper on applying molecular engineering methods to continuous pharmaceutical manufacturing.

Professor Walker said, “It was a privilege to lead SSPC from 2017 to 2022 as it was particularly committed to breaking down traditional boundaries across academia and promoting new research. I am delighted to still be a part of the story and develop further partnerships in the future”.

With its long history and strong record of accomplishment, SSPC is well placed to continue supporting global healthcare for many years to come.

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