The recent advances in the range of available therapeutic strategies, alongside the breadth of diseases that can now be successfully treated, have resulted in the need for new drug dosage forms and associated manufacturing approaches. To address this need, key enablers are continuous flow processing, micro- and milli-fluidics, online advanced process analytical technology, real-time process control, design of experiments, advanced data analysis and artificial intelligence (AI). We aim to combine these technologies to deliver fully automated, self-optimizing platforms for screening and manufacturing drugs as nanocrystals via antisolvent precipitation. Drug nanocrystals have attracted substantial interest as a means of delivering poorly water-soluble (and thus poorly bioavailable) drugs – a persistent and increasing problem for the pharmaceutical industry. Using AI technologies to identify automatically the best processing conditions for the desired products, the platform will permit to adhere to the principles of Quality by Design, thus facilitating the cost-effective continuous manufacture of reproducible and stable drug products.
Description of this PhD project
This PhD project is part of the EPSRC-funded research project “Fully Automated Platforms for Drug Nanocrystals Manufacturing via Continuous-Flow, Data-Driven Antisolvent Crystallization”. This is a collaboration between the UCL Chemical Engineering Department and the UCL School of Pharmacy. The student will join a highly motivated group working at the interface of chemical engineering, chemistry, materials, and nanomedicine.
The goal of this PhD project is to develop robust manufacturing platforms for the synthesis of drug nanocrystals generated via continuous flow antisolvent crystallization. The PhD student will carry out research in the areas of nanoparticle synthesis, chemical engineering and microfluidics. The research will involve studying experimentally and, if and when required, computationally various processes that affect nanoparticle synthesis, such as mixing, mass transfer and residence time distributions. Based on these studies, the student will design, develop, evaluate and demonstrate antisolvent crystallization flow systems for the synthesis of drug nanocrystals. The systems will be equipped with online process analytical technology (e.g., laser diffraction, dynamic light scattering and Raman spectroscopy) to monitor crystal size and polymorphism. This will permit adjusting the nanocrystal properties continuously, enabling automated operation compatible with Industry 4.0 principles.
The PhD student will have the opportunity to work with the other researchers involved in the project (two post-doctoral research assistants) and engage with the several industrial partners (e.g., GSK, Janssen, APC, Arcinova) and leading national research centres (e.g., CMAC and CPI).
The candidate must have or be expected to obtain a First-Class Honours degree from an MEng-level programme or its equivalent (e.g., a 3-year BEng degree followed by an MSc degree) in Chemical Engineering or an associated discipline (e.g., Mechanical Engineering and Physics).
Willingness to perform independently, yet within a collaborative environment, is a must.
All students (both UK and Overseas) are eligible. However, the department will only pay home fees; therefore, Overseas students will have to cover the difference between home and overseas fees themselves or through a scholarship (already secured by the time they apply).
The scholarship will cover in full 3-year Home fees and 3.5-year stipend. The stipend for the first year (i.e., 22/23 academic year) will be £17,983, and will increase each year in line with UCL minimum stipend rates.
Applications should be submitted through:
Please nominate Dr Luca Mazzei as supervisor and include a statement of interest.
For informal enquiries please contact Dr Luca Mazzei at [Email Address Removed]