Issue 9. September 2023
Cohort 1 are finishing off their research and writing up their theses.
Cohorts 2 & 3 are continuing to work on their projects.
Cohort 4 began working on their projects in February and are now preparing for their transfer.
A number of students went on a visit to Quotient Science in April.
CCDC and Britest have both provided training for Cohort 4.
‘The Industry Approaches to the Sustainability Goals’ and the ‘Behavioral Aspects of Decision Making’ Courses for Cohort 3 (and those from cohort 4 who chose to attend this year) ran in June.
The CDT annual conference took place on 12th and 13th July 2023, and we saw an excellent standard of posters and presentations from all our students. Well done everyone!!
Thank you to those of you who attended the conference for supporting our students.
We would like to congratulate Raphael Stone who has been offered and accepted a post at Syngenta and Harrison Johnson-Evans who has been offered and accepted a position at Sygnature. Congratulations to you both!
Student Profile - Dimitra Katrantzi
I completed my BSc in physics at AUTH with a focus on solid state physics and then my MSc in advanced materials science focusing on biomaterials for healthcare/ pharmaceutical applications at UCL. My MSc thesis inspired me to pursue a PhD.
Why I chose Molecules to Product CDT:
One of the reasons that I applied to the CDT is that it supports interdisciplinary research. Another reason was the programs training courses, which differentiate it from other PhD opportunities. Also, I was interested in the CDT's close connection with industry, enabling opportunities and focusing on solving real-world problems.
My project is about folded protein hydrogel characterisation. The project consists of preparation and characterisation by electron microscopy (EM) techniques of protein- based hydrogels. The aim is to directly image the structure of these gels using EM by proper sample preparation and staining fixation techniques. By comparing the architecture with small angle scattering results, the knowledge for future studies focusing on their biomedical applications in drug delivery will be enhanced.
Other Interests: In my free time I play the guitar.
My Placement - Mary Okeudo-Cogan
I found the UKRI-Canada research exchange programme on the UKRI website and was very much excited to apply for a funded placement. With the support of my supervisory team at Leeds, I drafted a research proposal and submitted an application to UKRI. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful in securing funding for the placement, at which point the Molecules to product CDT alongside Dr Nandika Bandara (Canadian host) generously offered to sponsor my research placement.
I arrived in Winnipeg on Wednesday 29th of March 2023, and was greeted with a local temperature of -16 degrees and a winter wonderland like I had never seen before! I was met at the airport by members of the research group, Anu, Dipo and Thilini. They gave me a warm welcome and dropped me off at the apartment that would be my home for the next 3 months. The next morning I woke up feeling slightly jet-lagged but delighted with the magical view of rabbits playing in the snow. I adapted to life in Winnipeg and my daily routine of research, forming new friendships and exploring the local environment saw me through the initial bouts of home sickness.
My second week in Winnipeg saw the arrival of the last winter storm of the season with temperatures below -22 degrees and piles of much snow taller than I am. Soon my icy walk into campus along the frozen Red river banks with curious giant deer and startled bald eagers became one of the many pleasures of my morning. By late April summer came, with temperatures going from -20 to 20 degrees in a week! To witness such a swift spring with flower buds and new blades of grass and leaves coming in full bloom within two weeks was indeed a wonder.
I could write endlessly about the natural beauty of Canada and my explorations, but I am sure you are curious how my research went as it was a research placement after all. Much like research at Leeds, I had clearly defined research aims and objectives. My research was focused on green sustainable protein extraction using deep eutectic solvents and non-thermal protein processing using cold atmospheric plasma. I was trained by the research team and applied techniques such as circular dichroism, FTIR and other food chemistry methods in my research. I greatly enjoyed broadening my research experience into the field of food chemistry, forming lasting friendships and networks. I attended two conferences while at Winnipeg, the Manitoba Materials conference where I presented work from my PhD research at Leeds. As well as the annual Manitoba Sustainable Protein Research Symposium hosted by the University of Manitoba and Manitoba Agriculture. My placement research presentation got an honourable mention award in the PhD category, which was a fitting way to conclude 3 months of handwork.
I ended my time in Canada, with two weeks holiday visiting Calgary, Banff National Park in Alberta, Rocky mountains in British Columbia and most of the stunning lakes and glacier covered mountains, Niagara Falls and Toronto with my husband. It was an amazing way to end a great adventure! This would not have been possible without the funding provided by the EPSRC CDT in Molecules to Product for which I am deeply grateful. Thank you for giving me a personal and professional once in a lifetime experience.
Numerous industries generate large volumes of bulk powders, such as pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and food materials. These powders are usually sold as free-flowing and easily processed substances. However, during extended periods of storage and transportation, these materials can agglomerate, leading to reduced flowability commonly known as "caking."
The objective of my project is to assess the caking behaviour of these powders using a specialised small-scale device. My project aims to assess this powder caking behaviour using a bespoke small-scale device to improve development efficiencies and reduce waste. Over the past year, I have developed multiple prototypes of this device, with the most recent version depicted above. The device requires less than 1 g of powder for testing. The degree of caking is quantified by measuring changes in the powder volume following the creep method.
I chose ibuprofen as the model material for testing and refining the device due to its capacity to form various crystal shapes by altering the solvent during the crystallisation process. This approach enabled me to explore numerous parameters that influence caking and determine if the device can differentiate between them.
Based on my current findings, it is evident that factors such as temperature, humidity, pressure, and particle shapes have a significant impact on caking behaviour. This influence is observed both in terms of the strength of the formed agglomerates and the extent of caking that occurs.
Sudeshna Roy also presented at the CDT Webinar held on 21st June 2023.
At this webinar, I gave a small talk about my project on co-amorphous form products. Amorphous drug delivery systems have been proven to improve the stability, mobility, and dissolution properties of poorly soluble active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for category II of the Biopharmaceutical Class System. This can be achieved by combining an API with a suitable, excipient that has a strong intermolecular interaction with the API to form a co-amorphous system. It is critical that recrystallisation is inhibited because crystallinity within the drug hampers solubility, thereby reducing efficacy. In this study, model co-amorphous systems of valsartan (VAL), an anti- hypertensive API, and nicotinamide (NIC), a highly-water soluble form of vitamin B3, used here as an excipient, are investigated following the work of Turek et al., 2021.
Co-amorphous systems were prepared by heated slurry, melt amorphisation and ball milling. Powder X-ray diffraction (PXRD) patterns of the dried powders revealed that the methods lead to a fully amorphous powder. Thermal and spectroscopic analysis had been performed to identify homogeneity and hydrogen bonding within the systems, both of which are key factors in maintaining the stability of these binary systems. To investigate the early stages of recrystallisation, the systems were subjected to accelerated ageing in an atmosphere of 85% relative humidity. The samples that were prepared were not completely homogenous. It was observed that phase separation occurs in the one of the systems at 4 weeks of ageing. It has also identified detailed morphological, compositional, and structural information thereby providing insight into the recrystallisation pathways. Further work will explore the hydrogen bond effects discussed in Turek et al., 2021(1), and dissolution studies of the binary systems, on the path identified by characterisation techniques.
Student Profile – Daniel Mathwin
I was born in Newcastle, Australia and went on to study a Bachelor of Science at the University of Newcastle, where I was drawn to organic chemistry and pharmaceutical science. After some further study, followed by working in industry, I decided to undertake a Master of Industrial Research at the University of Melbourne. My masters project was hosted by CSIRO and focused on developing continuous flow syntheses for the manufacture of active pharmaceutical ingredients. I became very passionate about this topic and sought to further explore it through a PhD abroad.
Why I chose Molecules to Product CDT:
One of the key reasons I chose Molecules to Product was because of the involvement with leading industry partners like Astra Zeneca and Sterling Pharma Solutions. This is important for me because of my interest in flow chemistry and pharmaceutical manufacturing. I was also drawn to joining a cohort of other students to share the experience with and gain exposure to their diverse research topics.
The combination of chemical and enzymatic catalysis into telescoped continuous processes has potential to streamline the production of complex molecules. I am working with Sterling Pharma Solutions to develop continuous flow chemoenzymatic cascades for the synthesis of pharmaceutically relevant chiral amines. Another important component of my work will be investigating bioderived reaction media as alternatives to solvents derived from fossil fuels. Solvent selection is a major determinant of how sustainable a given process is, and by combining this focus with the development of streamlined chemoenzymatic cascades it is hoped that we can contribute to important conservations in both industry and academia about how to make pharmaceutical manufacturing more sustainable.
I am a big fan of science fiction and fantasy novels and I like to collect/paint miniatures. I am also keen to explore the UK and Europe while I am in this part of the world.
My Placement - Harrison Johnson-Evans
At the beginning of 2023, I was fortunate to spend 3 months working at AstraZeneca in Macclesfield, UK. As one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, AstraZeneca’s goal is to deliver the greatest benefit to the sector through a science- led, patient-focused manner. It was incredibly interesting to observe the vital role scientific research and understanding can play in ensuring that AstraZeneca can deliver for patients and healthcare professionals worldwide. Moreover, observing how the key skills of my PhD are currently being applied within the pharmaceutical industry and being able to exploit some of the technologies and expertise available within chemical development department at AZ was of great benefit to my personal development.
To compliment the biocatalytic aspect of my project, a commercial panel of enzymes were screened using a colorimetric high throughput screening methodology. The combination of this assay with analytical techniques (HPLC, SFC) allowed for the identification of a HIT enzyme required for my desired substrates.
With the help of the continuous Process Analytical Technology (cPAT) group, it was possible to monitor continuous flow reactions in-line using Raman and 19F NMR to provide real-time data on reaction yields. This also enabled accurate determination of when the reaction had reached steady state.
Many thanks to my industrial supervisor, Mark Dow, for facilitating this incredible opportunity and for everyone within the Langer and flow teams for all their help throughout my placement and for making me feel so welcome!
Dates for your Diary
Cohort 5 Induction:
02/10/2023 to 07/10/2023
18/10/2023 - 14:00 to 15:00
22/11/2023 - 14:00 to 15:00
Dates University will be closed:
22/12/2023 to 01/01/2024