APS PharmSci Conference Blog

This year’s APS PharmSci Conference to be held in the University of Greenwich (Wednesday 11thto Friday 13thSeptember) will be the tenth organised by the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Let’s look back over the last nine years and review a tiny part of what the Conferences have covered to give a taster of what you might expect from this year’s meeting.

APS PharmSci is a chance for Pharmaceutical Scientists to meet and exchange ideas, to present their latest research, to view the latest equipment and offerings from the exhibitors and to network. Attendees are approximately equally divided between academics, students and industrialists.

APS PharmSci is often the first place where you might hear about new initiatives and hence have the chance to be involved from an early stage. For example, the OrBiTo ‘Innovative Tools for Oral Biopharmaceutics’ initiative was described at the 2012 meeting and the SPaeDD ‘Smart Paediatric Drug Development’ open innovation project at the 2017 meeting. Alastair Florence was the Science Chair of the Conference when it was held in Edinburgh in 2013 and highlighted the EPSRC CMAC ‘Future Manufacturing Research’ Hub where he is the Hub Director, and which has the objective of translating new molecules into high value-products. Attendees at the 2016 Conference, based in the CMAC building in Strathclyde, then had the chance to tour the facility.

The Conference has often highlighted subjects which have subsequently gone on to be ‘hot topics’. Atheer Zgair and Ben Whalley spoke at the 2014 meeting on cannabinoids, their formulation and delivery with emphasis on their use in epilepsy which has featured in the news recently. Age-related medicines featured in the 2012 Conference and has been a consistent topic in meetings since due to the increasing emphasis placed on these by the EMA and society in general. Age-appropriate dosage forms both for older adults and paediatrics have been described, the physiological differences between the young and old detailed and the issues of polypharmacy, co-morbidities and adherence discussed. A paper (DOI: 10.3390/pharmaceutics11040172) was issued from the 2018 meeting in Glasgow.

The Plenaries and Award presentations (typically six at each meeting) provide a forum for some of the world’s leading contributors to ‘The Science of Medicine’ to showcase their achievements and describe their journeys to success. These sessions show how ideas in academia can be progressed towards medicines. David Jones from QUB, who has been a Science Chair of the Conference (2015), described the challenges of implantable materials (catheters etc.) and the approaches taken to reduce the formation of biofilms and hence infections; Ijeoma Uchegbu (2016) explained how a spin out company from UCL was developing Molecular Envelope Technology to deliver a peptide across the blood brain barrier; Gavin Halbert (2016) described the work of the Cancer Research UK Formulation Group based in Strathclyde and the challenges they have faced developing formulations with some very challenging chemo-therapeutic molecules and Yvonne Perrie (Strathclyde, Science Chair in 2016) described the use of liposomes for the delivery of a TB vaccine for use in children suffering from HIV.

The challenges ofpoorly soluble, poorly absorbed molecules have occupied the brain power of a number of presenters at the conference. Understanding the physiology of the GI tract is a good starting point and Abdul Basit (UCL, Science Chair in 2017) is an expert on the subject with particular emphasis on the targeting of therapeutics for the treatment on IBD. Hamid Merchant in 2016 also described how the physiology of the gut changes with age. Werner Weitschies (University of Griefswald in Germany) (2013) explained how imaging of the GIT can identify fluid volumes and transit times. At the same meeting Vanessa Zann (Quotient Sciences), Nikoletta Fotaki (University of Reading) and Lee Ann Hodges (then from Bio-Images) developed the theme explain how imaging techniques can help ensure targeted drug delivery to the GIT.

Hot melt extrusion was the topic of Dennis Douroumis’s plenary lecture in Hatfield in 2017 and Dennis (based in University of Greenwich) is heavily involved in the organisation of this year’s Conference (which has Cameron Alexander, University of Nottingham as the Science Chair).  Other manufacturing processes covered in the Conference include continuous manufacturing (2013 and 2015), granules and sachet products (2014), mini-tablets (2017) and powder behaviour (2011, and 2012). The 2014 Conference featured a round table session on the Manufacturing Classification System and a paper followed in 2015 (DOI: 10.3109/10837450.2014.954728) with an update in 2018 (DOI: 10.1080/10837450.2018.1534863).

It isn’t only academia and industry who present at the Conference. It also provides a forum for useful discussions with the Regulators. Sir Michael Rawlins, Head of the MHRA, presented at the 2017 Conference and the APS Regulatory Focus Group has organised discussions to clarify and develop the Regulators’ position on subjects as diverse as IVIVCs, dissolution testing, stability, paediatric investigation plans (PIPs) and innovation.

The Conference is a useful meeting for pharmaceutical scientists at an early stage in their careers. The APS New Scientist Focus Group has sessions at each Conference with talks from newly appointed academics or industrialists providing insights into career choices and their experiences. There have been workshops at the Conference too, covering topics such as how social networking might help and harm your career, CVs and scientific paper writing. Over the past nine years there have been over 200 short papers presented at the Conferences. These are selected from the posters (of which well over 1500 have been displayed) and give a further opportunity for early stage researchers to show off their work and gain experience presenting. This year’s Conference continues this tradition.

Hopefully this blog has given you an overview of what the APS PharmSci Conference has offered over the past nine years and whetted your appetite for this year’s Conference. Each year the content of the Conference is different but the experience and how you will benefit from the meeting remains the same.

This year we have some new initiatives  that which will add to your experience. We have introduced “review talks” these are longer review-types talks which cover a topic selected from our audience. Earlier in the year we have emailed our audience and suggested 5 possible topics. The winning topics were “immunotherapy” and “Antibody-drug conjugates”, so these will feature at PharmSci 2019. On the Thursday we will have a debate on benefits and disadvantages of open access. Finally, we are developing a fun activity for the Wed networking event, while we enjoy a BBQ and some drinks in the beautiful settings of Greenwich University Campus.

We look forward to seeing you in Greenwich in September.

Please take a look at our conference page.

John Wahlich-APS Advisory Board

June 2019