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Pharmaceutical Scientists Join UN Physicists

30 June 2004

- Links developed between Otago and Cambridge Universities-

UK physicists from Cambridge University are tapping into the University of Otago’s expertise in determining properties of solid drugs for a new research collaboration.

The three-year partnership will see pharmacy PhD student Axel Zeitler spend time in both Dunedin and Cambridge, applying his pharmacy knowledge to a cutting-edge spectroscopic technique developed by Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory.

Otago School of Pharmacy’s Professor Rades describes the new technique, known as terahertz spectroscopy, as one with “huge potential”. He says it will enable pharmaceutical companies to determine more accurately the solid properties of drugs, which could improve their quality, safety and efficacy.

“The terahertz spectroscopy technique was designed by Professor Michael Pepper and his team from Cambridge University and TeraView Ltd, a company working closely with the Cavendish Laboratory. It uses a part of the electromagnetic spectrum that was previously very difficult to access and detect, to examine the crystal structure of drugs.

“The Cambridge team is keen to explore ways in which the new technique can be used to assist pharmaceutical companies in determining solid state properties of drugs as these are important for the formulation and dissolution of the drug and hence determine how fast it will be absorbed into the blood stream,” explains Professor Rades.

The physicists from Cambridge University approached the University of Otago’s School of Pharmacy about the collaboration because there have been a number or published papers from the School in this subject area. The School has also spent a significant amount of time working with the particular drug the Cambridge researchers want to investigate further.

“It’s a fantastic arrangement for Axel and the University,” continues Professor Rades. “We get to be one of only a very few teams in the world to have access to all the different spectroscopic techniques for our research and TeraView Ltd has access to our expertise and PhD students’ knowledge.”

Prof Pepper from Cambridge University says: “this collaboration continues the longstanding and extensive links between the Cavendish Laboratory and New Zealand. The most famous head of the Cavendish being Lord Rutherford of Nelson with many other distinguished physicists from New Zealand playing a key role in the Cavendish.”

As part of the collaboration, Prof Pepper will also become an Honorary Professor at the University of Otago. This will enable him to be a research supervisor for Otago School of Pharmacy PhD students.

Last year Prof Rades carried out initial research with Cavendish Laboratories with Associate Professor Keith Gordon from the Department of Chemistry and their jointly supervised PhD student Clare Strachan.


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