The SweDeliver Pulmonary Drug Delivery Work Package – An ecosystem for research and competence development

2020-10-05

“The national competence center SweDeliver has already extended the visibility and appeal of the Faculty of Pharmacy far beyond Sweden's borders. This enhances our ability to recruit top-of-the-line PhD students and postdocs.”, states Göran Frenning, Professor of Pharmaceutical Physics and leader of the Pulmonary Drug Delivery Work Package.

Irès van der Zwaan, PhD, SweDeliverPulmonary drug delivery is essential for local administration of drugs to the lung to treat or prevent diseases such as bronchial asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and cystic fibrosis. This route is also useful for systemic administration and has the potential to deliver biopharmaceuticals such as insulin, vaccines and growth hormones.

To date there is a pronounced need for a fundamental understanding of factors governing the deposition, dissolution and absorption of drugs in the lung. Add the exploration of powder mechanics of adhesive mixtures and you have the scientific challenges that constitute the basis for research performed within the Pulmonary Drug Delivery Work Package at SweDeliver – Swedens new national competence center, facilitated by the Faculty of Pharmacy.

Göran Frenning, Professor
Göran Frenning, Professor

“Starting out, within the framwork of SweDeliver’s predecessor: Swedish Drug Delivery Forum, this was in part new territory for our research environment at the Faculty of Pharmacy. However, utilising our previous findings and responding to the current challenges of Swedish pharma, we framed a number of scientific starting points with high relevance to both our industrial partners and us,” states Göran Frenning, Work Package Leader and Professor of Pharmaceutical Physics.

In accordance with the shared vision to generate new scientific knowledge and new competence alike, the recruitment of young researchers was promptly initiated. The new arena had already gained attention in the world of drug delivery, and it turned out quite a challenge to choose from the many highly qualified applicants announcing their interest.

“SweDeliver has certainly increased the visibility of our faculty and research groups, which has further strengthened our ability to recruit top-of-the-line PhD students and postdocs. This new environment has also helped extend our appeal far beyond Sweden's borders, an observation confirmed by our forum's junior researchers being a far more international constellation than we normally have the opportunity to assemble,” Göran Frenning continues.

With five PhD students and two postdocs introduced to the Faculty of Pharmacy, the Work Package was ready to launch its line-up of projects. In addition to the focus areas already mentioned, the Work Package also encompassed a generic project in which particles formed by dry granulation were to be studied. While the major part of the research was conducted at the Uppsala University Biomedical Centre, the forum’s industrial partners actively contributed both expertise and infrastructure.

“The arena provides access to networks, knowledge, technologies and state-of-the-art equipment that a single company or university could never offer. The mutual trust and generosity that have characterised our joint venture from the start is not a matter of course in an industry typified by competition for products, intellectual property and expertise. Yet here we are, and SweDeliver is undoubtedly a force that consolidates our nation's already strong position in the world of drug delivery,” says Eva Sjökvist Saers, former CEO of APL and member of the Swedish Drug Delivery Forum steering committee 2017–2019.

Ires van der Zwaan, PhD student
Ires van der Zwaan, PhD student

In the project Development of a novel pulmonary controlled release drug delivery system, Dutch PhD student Irès van der Zwaan takes on the lack of controlled release formulations for drug delivery to the lung. If successful in creating new systems, they could facilitate novel therapeutic opportunities for the inhalation area.

“We survey and evaluate the dissolution of several promising controlled release options as well as novel systems. To this end, we use various types of equipment and methods, such as a modified Andersen cascade impactor and dissolution in a Transwell system, a μDiss Profiler and a single particle approach. This is quite an essential mission, as the availability of controlled release drug delivery systems for the lungs is likely to accelerate the development of new pulmonary therapies,” Irès van der Zwaan asserts.

Sohan Sarangi, PhD Student
Sohan Sarangi, PhD Student

In the project Particle dynamics and multiscale modelling of adhesive mixtures for inhaled medicines, Indian PhD student Sohan Sarangi explores the formulation and handling of adhesive mixtures. In these mixtures, micronised particles are attached to considerably larger carrier particles to overcome the cohesiveness resulting from the small particle size needed for pulmonary drug delivery.

“We are mapping the interaction and effective mechanical properties between the drug and carrier particles and their aggregates. To this end, we use a particle-based modelling approach which we validate through experiments. Our aim is to make significant contributions to the knowledge of adhesive mixtures during general handling and transportation, which will be of great scientific and industrial importance,” Sohan Sarangi says.

Conducting their studies within the Swedish Drug Delivery Forum framework, these young researchers not only obtain access to a wide range of valuable scientific assets. They also get to work in absolute proximity to both a great number of leading research groups and a diversity of successful companies and innovative start-ups. By uniting these traditionally separate environments, the forum has rapidly developed into a unique and dynamic setting, creating foundations for future careers in the Swedish life science sector.

“Pharmaceutical companies need new employees with knowledge of both scholarly methods and industrial needs. In the past, there has been a gap between basic and applied research, but now we have the arena where the two integrate effectively. Here we can form a new generation of experts who from the start will contribute by their extensive networks, broad skills and a modern view of knowledge exchange. To me, it is obvious that this environment is already central in advancing the frontiers of drug delivery,” Eva Sjökvist Saers states.

The letter of intent underlying the research programme commits to the establishment of world-leading research with effective industrial utilisation. An ambitious goal that today must be considered fulfilled, when the Pulmonary Drug Delivery Platform, after three years of operation, joins the rest of the forum in transforming into SweDeliver.

“This first stage has been characterised by sincerity and respect. All associates have shared a quest for scientific excellence, and thanks to highly regarded and equally important input from our industrial partners, we have accomplished a number of qualitative articles. Now we are ready to take the next step, and I am confident that we will achieve continuous success for both forum and field,” Göran Frenning concludes.

MORE INFORMATION

SweDeliver
Read about the SweDeliver Pulmonary Drug Delivery Work Package
Read about the projects in the Pulmonary Drug Delivery Work Package

CONTACT

Work package Leaders
Professor Göran Frenning, Department of Pharmacy, Uppsala University
Doctor Ulrika Tehler, AstraZeneca

text: Magnus Alsne, photo: Mikael Wallerstedt

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Last modified: 2021-06-22