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Launch of Pharmaceutical Research Cluster at UL


Cluster 2

Brendan O'Callaghan; Professor Kieran Hodnett, Dean Faculty of Science and Engineering, UL; Tom O'Callaghan and Liam Tully at the launch of the Solid State Pharmaceutical Cluster at the University of Limerick.

The future of the Irish pharmaceutical industry, one of the largest industries in the country, was strengthened with the launch of the Solid State Pharmaceutical Cluster (SSPC) at the University of Limerick. SSPC is a research group, which aims to support pharmaceutical manufacturing companies in Ireland.

"Tablets are made up of compacted powders, the exact crystalline form of which is very important in determining how a particular medicine works in the human body so great care must be taken in its manufacture.  As one of the most highly regulated industries the pharmaceutical sector has significant and costly problems with accurately reproducing solid-state forms. Costs increase when material must be reprocessed or discarded because a product is outside of its regulated specification due to failure of a unit operation," said Professor Kieran Hodnett, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering at UL and Project Lead SSPC, speaking from the launch. 

"The combined expertise and background knowledge of the cluster enables the development of a research area in Ireland which supports the pharmacrutical industry by developing the expertise, research and capacity to understand, generate, design and optimise processes to manufacture solid-state pharmaceuticals to meet the demands of advanced formulation and drug delivery systems.  Researchers will study, in a fundamental manner, properties of pharmaceutical solids that have a definite impact on performance characteristics e.g. random variability of flow characteristics from batch to batch leading to handling failures at the formulation stage," Professor Hodnett continued.

The Pharmaceutical industry is one of the four largest components of Ireland's manufacturing output.  Central statistics office figures for 2005 show the sector accounting for 44.7% of national exports in 2004 and employing 24,000 people directly. More than 50% of the personnel in this industry are 3rd level graduates.  Despite increasing competition from lower cost economies, Ireland remains an attractive location for the manufacture of pharmaceutical and chemical products.  Quality is of paramount importance to the success of any pharmaceutical operation and the ability to deliver advances in these areas is dependent on a highly educated and technically competent work force.

"The Solid State Pharmaceuticals Cluster offers the potential to train to PhD level and beyond a significant number of researchers in the domain of pharmaceutical solids. The training will come from the best academic and industrial laboratories in this country and overseas and will provide an exciting mixture of academic and industrial experience as a preparation for a career in this industry.  It will address the severe and growing shortage of PhD graduates in the areas of physical chemistry, chemical and mechanical engineering and pharmaceutics. Industry sources point to the lack of skilled graduates in all the technical areas dealing with pharmaceutical solids and this shortfall is a definite impediment to the Irish industry in its collective ambition to move back along the value chain within their companies and increase competitiveness," concluded Professor Hodnett.


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