Academia and industry shape the future of drug delivery

9 June 2020

The SDDF research program is carried out at three platforms

The SDDF research program is carried out at three platforms

In three years, the Swedish Drug Delivery Forum has developed into a meeting place where Uppsala University and ten pharmaceutical companies unite to shape the future in drug delivery. In July, the forum transforms into the competence center SweDeliver.

"To establish world-leading research, characterised by scientific excellence and efficient industrial utilisation." This was the very ambitious goal presented at the launch of the Swedish Drug Delivery Forum, SDDF, in the summer of 2017. Uppsala University's Faculty of Pharmacy and ten pharmaceutical companies, with financial support from Vinnova, laid the foundation for a meeting place focusing on drug delivery. With united force, they wanted to pave the way for future expertise, scientific progress and extensive networks. Three years later, the success is a fact and the forum is getting ready to take the next step in July. Now as the competence center SweDeliver.

Göran Alderborn, Forum Director

“The decision to establish a formal network was the result of many vibrant discussions about the crucial role of drug delivery and formulation in the development and manufacturing of safe and effective medicines. We set out to create an ecosystem where academia and industry in collaboration consolidate Sweden's advanced position in our field. Today, our research program and interdisciplinary network constitute a dynamic platform and the future looks undoubtedly bright,” says Göran Alderborn, Forum Director and Professor of Pharmaceutical Technology.

In the absolute core of SDDF, a selection of PhD students and postdocs are working to solve the scientific challenges defined in dialogue between companies and faculty. Here they have access to technology and supervision from prominent researchers in both academia and industry. Together, they constitute an international constellation that already conducts high-quality research while preparing for future leading positions in the Swedish life science sector.

“Access to qualified employees and expertise in drug delivery is crucial to a pharmaceutical company like AstraZeneca, and this was certainly a contributing factor in our involvement in the forum. Today, we are an integrated part of an ecosystem where a wide range of talented researchers move between companies and academia. It is a considerable shift of gear, likely to generate competence, companies and jobs for a long time to come,” says Mats Berglund, Chair of the SDDF steering group and Vice President of ISEL, AstraZeneca.

The forum's research program is carried out at three platforms, each centred on a specific method for drug delivery: parenteral, oral and pulmonary. These are methods that, despite extensive opportunities, also present challenges, and by gathering perspectives and skills, the network hopes to contribute to breakthroughs for future treatments. The collaboration has already resulted in a number of new research areas and enabled long-term technology investments.

“Within the framework of our work in SDDF, we have acquired instruments to perform Small-Angle X-ray Scattering, SAXS, an efficient and economical method to determine the structure of drug formulations and biomacromolecules in solution. After years of time-consuming journeys to limited time slots at large-scale research facilities, we can now perform continuous operations in our own premises, which has proven to be a key factor in the scientific progress made in a number of studies connected with the forum,” says Per Hansson, Platform Leader and Professor of Physical Chemistry.

Representatives of all parties describe a collaboration characterized by commitment, trust and determination to contribute to the common good. The traditional gap between basic and applied research is well on its way to being bridged, and the concept of "we" has gained – within the forum – a meaning that extends far beyond the individual organisation.

“Today we form a large and vital part of a scientific field of high relevance. And we do not only share knowledge, networks and infrastructures that no single single company or university could never offer. Together we generate the perspectives necessary for identifying novel opportunities. United we make it obvious to politicians and authorities what areas are in need of investments. To me, it is obvious that this environment is already a force that will ensure Sweden's strong position in drug delivery and continuous appeal to multinational corporations as a competitive country in which to conduct research, pursue development and operate,” says Eva Sjökvist Saers, former member of the SDDF steering committee and CEO of APL.

The forum's success has not gone unnoticed in the pharmaceutical world. Several faculties and companies in both Sweden and our Nordic neighbouring countries have closely followed the development and are now expressing interest in initiating collaboration with the network in connection with SDDF transforming into the competence center SweDeliver.

Christel Bergström, future leader of SweDeliver

“SweDeliver will inherit a creative environment, dedicated partners and increased funding from Vinnova. It gives us what we need to conduct high-quality research from the very start. It also gives us room to grow further, both across national borders but also with a series of new initiatives that will take us big steps in the right direction. Right now, we are looking forward with inspiration, self-confidence and a vision that SweDeliver will shine globally, and in five years I am convinced we will be there,” says Christel Bergström, Professor of Molecular Pharmaceutics and future leader of SweDeliver.

Facts

  • The Swedish Drug Delivery Forum (SDDF) is a world leading research forum in Drug Delivery.
  • SDDF is the first national forum in Drug Delivery and is based on a multi-disciplinary collaboration between academia and industry.
  • The Department of Pharmacy at Uppsala University is the academic hub of the forum.