Research Lives – Spotlight on SSPC

The Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre (SSPC) at UL is a global hub of Pharmaceutical Process Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing.  Funded by Science Foundation Ireland and industry it is a unique collaboration between 24 industry partners, nine research performing organisations and 12 international academic collaborators.

The SSPC is the largest research collaboration in Ireland and one of the largest globally within the pharmaceutical area. Its role is to link experienced scientists and engineers in academia and the pharmaceutical industry to work together to address critical research challenges , increase growth  and retention within the pharmaceutical industry in Ireland.

UL Links caught up with some of the people in SSPC working in this exciting and growing industry.  

Dr Brian De Souza - Post Doctorate Researcher, SSPC

I’m a new arrival to chemical engineering.  Many years ago, I started off as an aeronautical engineer having completed my primary degree in aeronautical engineering at the University of Limerick.  I really enjoyed my time in UL and made some great friends.  Following my undergraduate, I stayed on to complete an industrially focused PhD relating to the hydraulic design of pumps. I then moved abroad to the UK, where I took up a consultancy position in the development of turbochargers, pumps, fans and turbine design. 

It took a Clare woman to bring me back to Ireland.  On my return, I could see that there were many more opportunities for engineers in the pharmaceutical space than any other industry.  This is something I didn’t really consider when I was younger.  I also clearly missed my time away from UL. 

I was offered and took up a research position back in UL.  This position involved looking at a very important step in the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, namely crystallisation.  It was daunting at first, but I was surprised at how easy I found the transition to this new field of engineering.  

I’m really enjoying my new role. Right now, I’m working on the development of new techniques with the potential to transform how drugs are made. I’m looking at the production of nanoparticles which could be an important step in the targeted delivery of chemotherapeutic drugs. I do a lot of laboratory work now, whereas before I was mainly desk bound.  The research is not just of an academic nature, and I’ve seen how it can be immediately put to use in industry in the form of transformed manufacturing processes.

There are great career opportunities in the pharmaceutical research area.  I love being back in UL, and I’m especially happy to be part of the Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre. On this note, someday, I must get around to thanking my wife for dragging me back from London!

Dr Cathy Kelly - Post Doctorate Researcher, SSPC

Science and maths were always my strongest subjects in school. As primary school teachers my parents liked the idea that engineering was a degree which seemed to have specific job application on graduation so I chose chemical engineering. During my undergraduate degree in Queen’s University, Belfast I came to realise the prominence of the pharmaceutical industry in Ireland so used my placement year to gain experience in the sector. On graduation I was offered a PhD in the School of Pharmacy in QUB which, as the top school of pharmacy in the UK, was an offer I couldn’t refuse. I’m now carrying out research to improve the solubility of poorly soluble drugs. More than 40% of newly discovered drugs are practically insoluble in water and therefore often fail required bioavailability tests so the formulation of these drugs into suitable products for market is one of the major difficulties currently facing the pharmaceutical industry.

Coinciding with a relocation to Ennis following my wedding last year, securing a research position in UL was the icing on the cake. My husband and I both have a keen interest in traditional music so the location of the university within 50 km of Ennis and Co. Clare, a national hub for the music, song and dance tradition couldn’t be more ideal.

Dr Luis Padrela - Senior Research Fellow, SSPC

I am currently a Senior Research Fellow at the Synthesis and Solid State Pharmaceutical Centre (SSPC), at the University of Limerick. I took a bachelors in Biochemistry in Portugal (University of Lisbon) and then a PhD in Chemical Engineering both in Portugal (University of Lisbon) and Sweden (University of Luleå), having worked in the pharmaceutical industry (Hovione, Portugal) after finishing my PhD.

The main reason why I initially decided to study topics such as Biochemistry, Chemical Engineering and Pharmaceutical Sciences and pursued a scientific career is because I wanted to contribute to the development of novel and more efficient medicines which can make a real impact on peoples’ lives.