PDA Letter Article

Student Learns Firsthand About Industry

by David O’Loughlin, Maynooth University

EU Annual Meeting

Earlier this year, I was honored to be one of two students awarded a scholarship to attend the 4th PDA Europe Annual Meeting in the beautiful city of Amsterdam. The theme of this year’s conference was “Global Healthcare of the Present and the Future.” Having just finished the third year of my degree program in pharmaceutical and biomedical chemistry at Maynooth University, I was keen to see how technology is advancing in an increasingly digital and paperless age.

On the first day, members of PDA’s Ireland Chapter met me in the exhibition area and showed me around. This allowed me to visit some of the exhibition booths.

As far as the sessions, I particularly enjoyed Derek Duncan’s talk, “Ensuring Container Closure Integrity of Gene Therapy Products Needing Deep Cold Storage.” Duncan works for Lighthouse Instruments, a company that designs non-destructive analysis equipment for determining the gas composition of the headspace. Their instruments can determine if CO2 has leached into gene therapy vials during storage on dry ice. CO2 ingress shows that during storage the vial has been compromised, which could lead to contamination of the product. I found all of this very fascinating!

The other highlight of the conference for me was Jose Castillo’s talk, “Low-footprint, Intensified, Single Use Platform for the Production of Viral Vaccines.” His team at Univercells developed NevoLine, a viral vaccine production technology that cuts the footprint of a facility from 5000–10,000 square meters to 1500 square meters and they estimate the cost per dose will fall from U.S. $1.2-1.5 to U.S. $0.3 million. In a world facing a shortage of vaccines with a supply gap of around 50 million doses per year, any system which can reduce the footprint required to develop these vaccines is extremely valuable.

Other sessions also highlighted specific new technologies, including one on the implementation of blockchain technology into the pharmaceutical industry.

In addition, it was fantastic to get exposure to regulation in the industry. As a student, I have learned about the importance of regulation but had no firsthand experience of it. So, I found the keynote speeches from the U.S. FDA, EMA, MHRA and WHO representatives especially interesting.

I would like to thank the PDA Ireland Chapter for this wonderful opportunity, and I hope to stay involved with them into the future.

PDA Who's Who

  • Jose Castillo, Cofounder and Chief Technology Officer, Univercells
  • Derek Duncan, Director, Europe Product Line Lighthouse Instruments