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SSPC’s Marta Bergillos Ruiz industry placement at MSD Ballydine
January 22, 2024

I am a 3rd year PhD student supervised by Prof. Sarah Hudson, Dr Peter Davern and Prof. Åke Rasmuson at the University of Limerick. My research focuses on drugs that present poor solubility in water. When taking a tablet, it is crucial for its effectiveness that it dissolves well in the gastrointestinal fluids, so that it can permeate the intestine membranes and enter the bloodstream. In my project, I am designing new formulations to stabilise and isolate drug nanoparticles, which have been proven to be effective for increasing the dissolution rate and solubility of poorly soluble drugs. These nanoparticles are prepared by liquid antisolvent crystallisation.

My 3-month industry placement took place in MSD Ballydine (Tipperary). I was part of the Commercialisation, Development and Supply department, which was working on the scale up of the synthesis of a new drug that will be manufactured in the site. I worked on the scale up of one of the steps of the synthesis of the API, which involved both organic chemistry and crystallisation. The timing of the placement worked out very well, as I got to see the reaction at lab scale and then at plant scale when the pilot started. At the beginning of the placement, and after all the safety trainings required, I started working at lab scale to familiarise myself with the reaction, learn all the steps and reagents, why they were used and what was happening in each step.

On the last month of my placement, the tests at plant scale commenced and I was designated as the point of contact from the chemists, requiring me to attend all daily meetings, stay informed about all the samples that were taken and received in the lab, know the expected outcomes after each step (such as the appearance of reaction mixture, the reaction conditions, etc) and assist with decision making. I had the opportunity to work with the team in Ballydine but also with the development team in Rahway (USA).

While the work I did in MSD was in a different field my PhD project, I found the experience highly beneficial. Everything I did was new to me, and as a result, I learned many new techniques, insights into chemistry and organizational skills. I am very grateful to all the people that I worked with, as they always made me feel that my opinion mattered, so I felt welcome and part of the team. Overall, this experience helped me understand the role of PhD graduates in the pharmaceutical industry, and aided me in shaping the career path I want to pursue after I finish my PhD.

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