The research behind the delivery of cheap, safe and effective medicine

27 Aug 2021

Image: Dr Jay Yadav

SSPC researcher Dr Jay Yadav describes how he is helping to pave a knowledge path to better pharmaceuticals.

After earning both a master’s and PhD from the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, SAS Nagar, a leading pharmaceutical research institute in India, Dr Jay Yadav took up a role in research and development at a pharma multinational in Hyderabad.

Here, his role was to discover novel solid forms of active pharmaceutical ingredients. Aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen are all examples of active pharmaceutical ingredients but Yadav was specifically looking for molecules to treat cancer. As a result of this work, he is both inventor and co-inventor of a number of patents.

Now based in Ireland, Yadav is a research fellow working under Prof Anne Marie Healy at Trinity College Dublin. Healy is co-principal investigator at SSPC, the Science Foundation Ireland research centre for pharmaceuticals. At SSPC, Yadav’s research focuses on pharmaceutical materials and the understanding of advanced processes.

‘Without this knowledge we are likely to spend more time, resources and effort to reach the same desired goal’

What inspired you to become a researcher?

I remember the molecular-level understanding of pharmaceutical materials mesmerised me. In fact, I completed my master’s and doctorate degree in the same research area.

The path of a career is not always set in stone, sometimes you otherwise evolve as per your environment, and opportunities are given. I have always contributed something behind the journey of science and innovation. It seems success is, in general, overrated and failure is inevitable. And unfortunately, in the case of the former, the role of luck is undermined.

The philosophical viewpoint aside, I believe an amalgam of academic research and industry experience could open a wider horizon on what would suit you more for your future career. I would say that it is important to decide based on your own experience and what you really want to achieve in your life.

I have always leaned towards research. It does not matter if conducted in academia or industry, it just surprises me, challenges me and drives me. Research could keep you going provided you are really motivated and passionate enough to do so. Overall, the philosophy of science inspired me to become a researcher.

What research are you currently working on?

I am working on an SSPC project which is funded by Science Foundation Ireland. This work involves advanced analytical techniques to characterise pharmaceutical materials.

When material properties are already known and we are aware of processing parameters, that could eventually decide the target performance. It is an interplay of property, processing and performance. One depends on the other, and they only work well together if they are properly approached. Without this knowledge we are likely to spend more time, resources and effort to reach the same desired goal.

The same knowledge is transferable to other similar materials and processing techniques in the pharmaceutical industry. It becomes more challenging when you work with natural or semisynthetic pharmaceutical materials. Man-made materials variability is easily addressed, but naturally acquired variability remains often under-characterised and poorly understood.

In your opinion, why is your research important?

The development and manufacturing of medicines require knowledge of the integrity of pharmaceutical materials, their properties, efficient process understanding, and how well the resulting medicinal products will perform inside the human body. Without such knowledge, medicines cannot be manufactured efficiently and in a streamlined manner at an industrial scale; nor would these medicines have reliable effectiveness for patients because of the lack of accessibility of medicines inside the human body. (Accessibility of medicines here means the extent active ingredients can access target tissues or organs.)             

What commercial applications do you foresee for your research?

This research could generate knowledge and process understanding to predict, develop and manufacture effective medicines, especially solids that are taken orally. That does not mean that such a knowledge path does not exist now, but this would be one more step on that path and there is still a long way to go.

The overall goal is to develop industrially viable techniques and provide cheap, safe and effective medicine.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a pharmaceutical researcher?

Not specifically in my field, but sometimes I see the research gap between academic research and industrial research. I am not sure if academic research should be 50 years or 30 years ahead of industrial requirements, or both should go hand in hand. It also means that there is a lack of translational research and development in pharmaceutical fields, and so much research has not been translated into the full potential it could offer.

Are there any common misconceptions about pharmaceutical research?

This research area requires innovations, not invention. I believe sometimes just innovations can suffice. ‘Invention’ is often a marketing phrase, and we are so fascinated without realising its impact and whether it is important. That is why someone very wise said: “Nature is a tinkerer, not an inventor.”

What are some of the areas of research you’d like to see tackled in the years ahead?

In the pharmaceutical field, new medicines should be target-specific and less toxic or not toxic at all. It seems unlikely though. All medicines have side effects and they are toxic in some way or another. For example, on the extreme side, cancer medicines are so unkind to the body you cannot imagine.

There should be research areas that can create smart health for the smartphone society. It is quite synonymous with ‘prevention is better than cure’, creating a society free from any diseases and malignancies, not the society trying to find new medicines and new treatments as and when required. If the latter is the case, then it is a never-ending race we can never win.

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