Innovations in biopharmaceuticals – from academia to industry

Last week I was fortunate enough to sit as a device expert on the panel of the 6th Annual MIBio Conference at Magdalene College, Cambridge. The meeting, organised by Arecor, GSK and the University of Nottingham, brought together members of industry and academia to share perspectives on the development of biopharmaceuticals (also known as biologics). The delegates at the conference worked in a variety of backgrounds from research, formulation and commercialisation to lab supplies and device development.

Biopharmaceuticals come with their own particular set of requirements when compared to the small molecules that we’re used to working with everyday; they’re more difficult to manufacture, they have more complex interactions with the patient physiology and they usually have more challenging stability requirements. In addition to these headline requirements; the viscosity and heavy payload of the drugs can lead to challenges for device manufacturers.

The conference gave a very interesting opportunity to contrast the perspectives of either end of the development chain. To the researchers, in vivo effectiveness was the key objective to finding a new therapy but to a commercial pharma company, the stability and robustness of a drug could well be the deciding factor.

Delegates at Magdalene College, Cambridge

As the day continued, there were some very interesting talks addressing some of the challenges with biologics. These included ideas such as adding enzymes to excipients to increase the interstitial space for injection, and how adding proteins to inhaled formulations could eliminate the need for cold chain storage. Fascinating stuff. There were also presentations showing how math modelling can be used to optimise the creation of new formulations by simulating physiological interactions and the deposition of drug particles in the lungs.

It was clear that biologics are really starting to make a significant impact on the pharmaceutical sector, especially when discussing success stories like Humira and cutting edge therapies based on the use of autologous stem cells to treat advanced cancers. As a device developer, it was a great privilege to be invited to offer my own perspectives, and it certainly gave me some further insights to the innovation happening in the world of biopharmaceuticals.

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