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Development of a Multimodal Sensor System for Performance Monitoring of Pharmaceuticals

Project Description

This 4-year prestigious Strathclyde/AstraZeneca PhD studentship aims to develop a novel multimodal monitoring approach to quantify performance-controlling mechanisms of the dissolution of pharmaceutical tablets. This multi-disciplinary project is suitable for students with a background in chemistry, physics, chemical engineering or pharmacy. You will be working with a world-leading pharmaceutical company (AstraZeneca) and it will provide you a perfect platform to have a career in industry or academia. This project also presents an exciting opportunity for you to deliver innovative solutions for the pharmaceutical industry with opportunities for publication in peer reviewed journals and conferences as well as delivering real industrial impact through research.

Background and Motivation: The majority of drug products are designed to immediately release the active ingredient, where the microstructure and the disintegration process play a pivotal role in product performance. The development of a drug product requires a deep understanding of the interconnection of every step involved in tablet disintegration as well as their link to the microstructure, formulation and raw material attributes. There is currently a substantial knowledge gap due to the lack of appropriate in-situ measurement techniques that can resolve the fundamental processes underpinning disintegration and dissolution.

This Project: This project aims to develop an innovative multimodal testing system to resolve the fundamental mechanisms driving tablet dissolution. It will deliver transformative outcomes to reach the next level of understanding in tablet dissolution. The specific aims to produce the first dissolution tester that simultaneously measures the dynamic processes involved in tablet disintegration by coupling a brand-new optical coherence tomography system with focused beam reflectance measurements and UV-vis spectroscopy. In addition, in-situ Raman spectroscopy will be used to analyse if and when a solid-state transformation takes place during the dissolution testing. The multimodal dissolution testing system will be used to gain fundamental insights into the relationship between the formulation, microstructure and tablet dissolution. High-end techniques (X-ray computed tomography, terahertz time-domain spectroscopy, optical coherence tomography, focused beam reflectance measurements) will be used in this work.

Environment: This is an exciting opportunity for the successful candidate to join the world-leading EPSRC Future Continuous Manufacturing and Advanced Crystallisation Centre (CMAC, ) within the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow, UK). You will be fully integrated into CMAC and will be based in the £89M Technology Innovation Centre. This will give you access to a dedicated national network of world-class, state-of-the-art facilities, including the £34M UK-RPIF funded CMAC National Facility. Your training will be aligned with the manufacturing research vision of CMAC that is informed by the needs of CMAC’s pharmaceutical industry partners GSK, AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Roche, Novartis, Lilly, Bayer & Takeda and technology partners. The project will thus proceed in close collaboration with academic and industrial partners. You will engage with the wider research team on a daily basis and will also have opportunities to interact with and present your research to CMAC’s industrial partners and the wider research community. There will also be the opportunity for a secondment at one of CMAC’s industry partners.

Academic and industrial supervisors:
- Dr Daniel Markl (University of Strathclyde) is an expert in the monitoring of tablet disintegration and studying the microstructure of pharmaceutical drug products. Dr Markl will do the day-to-day supervision and will oversee the project progress.
- Dr Ibrahim Khadra (University of Strathclyde) is an expert in dissolution testing and biopharmaceutics.
- Dr James Mann (AstraZeneca) is an expert in dissolution testing.
- Dr Ric Barker (AstraZeneca) is an expert in advanced in-vitro studies.

Funding Notes

Project is fully funded by AstraZeneca and EPSRC. CMAC will provide targeted training in pharmaceutical manufacturing in addition to the Strathclyde’s (PG Cert).

Applicants must have obtained, or expect to obtain, a first or 2.1 UK honours degree, or equivalent for degrees obtained outside the UK, in physics, chemistry, or chemical engineering.
Applicants should send a CV, the contact details of 2 references (including email addresses) and a covering letter, explaining why the applicant wishes to carry out this project, all in one pdf document by email (Dr Daniel Markl).
Subject line: PhD applicant for Dissolution Testing
Email address:


D. Markl, J. A. Zeitler, A Review of Disintegration Mechanisms and Measurement Techniques, Pharm Res 34, 890–917 (2017).
D. Markl, A. Strobel, R. Schlossnikl, J. Bøtker, P. Bawuah, C. Ridgway, J. Rantanen, T. Rades, P. Gane, K.-E. Peiponen, J. A. Zeitler, Characterisation of pore structures of pharmaceutical tablets: A review, Int J Pharm 538, 188–214 (2018).

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