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Business & Regulation Business Practice, Technology and Equipment, Standards & Regulation, Small Molecules

Adapting to Change

This article was published in our sister publication, The Small Molecule Manufacturer, which celebrates the field of small molecule drug development and manufacturing with interviews and articles focusing on success stories, equipment, and new processing techniques. Read more about The Small Molecule Manufacturer here.

Why did you choose a career in pharmacy?

I’ve always believed that a career in healthcare was right for me. I have a love of math and science and, from an early age, I wanted to help care for people. But before I started college, I never truly considered a career in pharmacy – it was only during my freshman year that my eyes opened to the profession. I had the opportunity to shadow a pharmacist for a day and the experience helped me realize how well pharmacy aligned with my interests. This idea was reinforced during the time I spent working while at school. My first boss, Delane Long, was very invested in training students in his team. He showed us all what it meant to be a great pharmacist and care for patients well, and how to run successful businesses – the academic environment couldn’t have provided such insight.

How did you come to join Aprecia?

Once my studies were complete, I took the tools I had developed and applied them to my role in retail pharmacy. It was a real privilege to be on the front lines of patient care and, despite transitioning into other areas of the industry as my career progressed, I still sought out ways of improving patient care. One way I pursued this passion was through the exploration of innovative clinical programs. I partnered with companies that were using technologies in unique ways and, in 2019, I was introduced to Aprecia. The company was founded in 2003 and was built on a 3D printing technology platform called ZipDose, which had been developed by Aprecia based on work that originated at MIT. Using binder jet printing, they manufactured flexible and porous dosage forms that rapidly disintegrated in the mouth – helping to tackle the real-life problems people experienced on a daily basis, such as swallowing difficulties and administering medicines to children. I had seen these challenges first hand in my previous role as a pharmacist! To-date, Aprecia remains the only company to have produced an FDA-approved 3D printed drug product. The drug, SPRITAM, is used in children and adults with certain types of epilepsy. The company’s approach to manufacturing and patient care resonated with me and I joined their team later that year.

What most excites you about 3D printing?

The really exciting aspect is that there is no limit to what we can achieve using 3DP technologies. And, as problems arise, they can be adapted to provide solutions. The COVID-19 pandemic has really helped prove this as companies have shifted their business models to print PPE and other essential items for healthcare workers and patients alike! Their timely response to the crisis would not have been possible using more conventional manufacturing practices.

But, beyond the challenges posed by the current pandemic, the promise of 3D printing technologies for pharma has yet to be fully explored. From personalized medicine to improved supply chains to designing dosage forms that enable improved outcomes and adherence, there’s so much good that can come from 3D printing. We have a lot to look forward to in the years to come.

How has the pandemic affected your role?

I joined Aprecia in the summer of 2019 and so the latter half of my time at Aprecia has been unusual to say the least. Aprecia has certainly adapted to the challenges of COVID-19 and been a wonderful organization to work for. The pandemic has affected all our lives in different ways but, in my opinion, it has reinforced that good leadership is critical to the success of any organization. As a leader, when you invest in the right people and foster a positive work culture, it doesn’t matter what you’re faced with because you have a strong group of people around you to weather the storm. I also think it’s important to focus on the good that has come out of this situation. The outbreak has forced us all to have new conversations and inspired us to think creatively about solutions to current and future problems.

What are your predictions for 2021?

That’s a tricky question to answer! In general, predictions have gone out of the window, so we all have to expect the unexpected. But I hope that, as an industry, we don’t lose sight of the core issues we’ve identified during the pandemic. I think it sometimes takes a crisis for people to sit down and assess what aspects of the healthcare industry need to be fixed. I also think there’s a risk that, once we get out of this situation, we won't want to remember the stress and the trauma we’ve all experienced. I’m hopeful that we can stay focused on addressing the deficiencies in preparedness and patient care we’re now picking up on so that we can face any future crises with robust plans in place.

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About the Author

Maryam Mahdi

Associate Editor

After finishing my degree, I envisioned a career in science communications. However, life took an unexpected turn and I ended up teaching abroad. Though the experience was amazing and I learned a great deal from it, I jumped at the opportunity to work for Texere. I'm excited to see where this new journey takes me!

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