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SSPC’s Shubham Vishnoi, UL, industry placement at APC Ltd.
April 4, 2022

My name is Shubham Vishnoi, I am an SSPC funded PhD student at the University of Limerick (UL). In September 2019, I started my PhD in the stream of Computational Biology & Biophysics from the Department of Physics, UL under the supervision of Prof. Damien Thompson in SSPC’s modelling theme.

I am a graduate in Pharmaceutical Sciences, and have an M.S. (Pharm.) degree in Pharmacoinformatics (the science of drug design and pharmaceutical data analytics) from India. As an SSPC PhD student at UL, I am designing and exploring the role of novel peptide-based therapeutics to effectively combat hormonal diseases such as Diabetes and Obesity. My research focuses on the development of peptide therapeutics design rules by applying the bioinformatics techniques and codes that are fast and detailed enough to provide predictive models to guide the synthesis of novel peptide-based drug substances across atomistic to coarse-grained scales of modelling from nano to microseconds. The computational models that I am designing provide insights into the thermodynamic and kinetic features of binding of known and designed peptides to drug targets such as membrane proteins (GPCRs) and provide routes towards the development of an effective new peptide-based API formulation.

I took up a placement in Applied Process Company (APC), Dublin in July 2021, joining the Innovation team, reporting to Dr Brian Glennon. During my placement with APC, I got a chance to work on two of their ongoing projects, the first project where I was dealing with the algorithms of applied machine learning to demystify the drug solubility problem that is a critical challenge in drug development. I also had the opportunity to work in a collaboration with the Up Stream Bioprocessing team at APC, as my second project was more of a tool development task to expedite high-throughput screening data visualization and interpretation. One way or another, I learned a lot more about how information technologies can be effectively and efficiently deployed in the current pharma processes. Over the placement term, I had the opportunity to dive deeper into machine learning modelling. I know it is just the beginning of my journey but it is so exciting to be on a digital ride towards the future.

Working at APC, I had the invaluable experience of working in a technically advanced environment. I have truly enjoyed embarking upon a new learning process and feel fully supported by my teammates and team lead. In the innovation team, each PhD intern had a mentor whom we worked with. My mentor was very helpful and offered invaluable timely expert guidance, support and appreciation for my work. She really allowed me to have work that I could own throughout the placement. Outside of project work, I also had the chance to attend several outreach and engagement events, theme meetings and workshops (especially, the modelling focus group). This was extremely interesting as it allowed me to get a greater insight into the research environment in APC.

In some ways, the work I did with APC was so familiar to me – in both my PhD and on placement; my day-to-day activities involved exploratory analysis of pharmaceutical data and carrying out database management using various analytics tools. The scale of the datasets I handled was massive. Overall, my research background has set me up well to understand the algos that can be applied to solve big pharmaceutical data.

Personally, I can say that I definitely developed more confidence during my placement. What I found a crucial part of my placement with APC was the excellent communication; it made me feel connected and get more involved with my assigned task. The experience also taught me how to pitch and communicate an idea to a team. I gained a new sense of professionalism and a clearer view of what it meant to be in the field of innovation. So being put in a workplace and seeing how professional researchers work has made me realise what I want in the future and how I am going to get it.

SSPC’s PhD Industry Placement Programme is an effective way to bridge the gap between industry and academia as it encourages dialogue and unique collaboration abilities between academia and industry. SSPC industrial placement is an experimental learning opportunity for a PhD student. This not only provides you with first-hand experience in your research field but also offers an invaluable chance to network and build crucial professional connections.

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