Pharmaceutical Technology: Imperatives and Opportunities

23 October 2018

Alexander T. Florence UCL School of Pharmacy, University College London, London WC1N, UK

This presentation is a discussion about the pressing need for strengthening the sciences underpinning patient benefit. It is born of personal interests in the connectivity between aspects of the physical and biological sciences and from observation of current avenues for research and mechanisms to fulfill this promise. One might ask why the imperative for greater effort in pharmaceutical technology of all the associated sciences? One reason is that there have been, certainly in the UK, calls [1] to “have a radical shake-up of pharmacy education to move away from a focus on science….to concentrate on health provision.” Pharmacy cannot survive on the knowledge base of others, derived by others and published by others. Enhanced research and development, and teaching, in the field of pharmaceutical technology, alongside manufacturing and related activities in hospital pharmacies is an essential component of the future. It addresses issues with new and more complex actives, new modes of delivery and methods of their evaluation, safer and predictable outcomes based on our comprehension of the links between topics. Developing new delivery systems will uncover new aspects of our discipline to underpin clinical practice. Pharmaceutical technology not only produces drug and related products but seeks to further basic understanding. It is at that facinating interface between physics and human biology.

Research topics arise from curiosity, coincidence and connectivity, as much as from obvious needs. It develops through observing connectivity between topics. The diagram below emphasises this for just one area - surface science. Technology has both static and dynamic aspects and encompasses the nature of excipients (inactive and “active”), adhesion, aggregation, flow, the delivery of small molecules, proteins, monoclonal antibodies, polymers, biosimilars and nanoparticles. Stem cells are now in the domain and provide many pharmaceutical challenges, such as overcoming the deleterious effect of injection shear forces on their viability, a problem mitigated by the use of hydrogel vehicles inter alia.

Some of these topics will be discussed, including the aggregation of therapeutic proteins and monoclonal antibodies, adhesion of bacteria and dosage forms, the sorption of drugs, excipients such as the β-cyclodextrins which terminate the action of vecuronium by physical means to control the duration of anaesthesia and sometimes anaphylaxis. Phenomena such as flow, percolation and adhesion have many connections with pharmaceutical problems like the inadvertent adhesion of dosage forms to oesophageal tissue, which poses the question can dosage forms be designed to adhere and deliver drugs locally as in cases of Barrett’s oesophagus.

There are more opportunities than ever. Research based in the hospital pharmacy domain is the link between academic pharmacy research and clinical research and finding. My own research in the past as an academic certainly was broadened by my contacts with oncologists, dermatologists, biochemists and others. Pharmaceutical technology has a pivotal role in the future.

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