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"Fundamental research is key to making biological drugs more accessible"

26 February 2021, 15:17

Biological drugs have revolutionized the treatment of several severe diseases and are therefore vital to many people. However, due to inherent stability limitations of biologics they come with constraints in storage and handling. Dr. Helen Sjögren, Principal Scientist at Ferring Pharmaceuticals, believes the research done at NextBioForm could be a driving force in creating biological drugs better suited for the patients.

Dr. Helen Sjögren, Principal Scientist at Ferring Pharmaceuticals

Ferring Pharmaceuticals was founded in 1950 and focuses on reproductive medicine and maternal health. As a Principal Scientist Helen Sjögren’s role is to give scientific support to her colleagues throughout the whole product development phase. She also manages different scientific collaborations, such as the work with NextBioForm.  

– All research done within NextBioForm is made public for the participants, and we, therefore, get access to a lot of fundamental research and knowledge for the funding we contribute with. The consortium also acts as a community where we can discuss different topics with colleagues in the industry, technology experts and researchers – it is invaluable, says Helen.

Today, about one third of all new medicines are biological drugs. They are an important part of future medicines. The main benefit of biological drugs is that they have a high specificity: they can target exactly the right cell or molecule. With biological drugs, we have been able to cure previously uncurable cancer diseases and revolutionized the treatment of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.

While focus has been on developing the function of the drugs, the design has fallen behind. There are still many drawbacks with biological drugs, the main being limited stability. Most biological drugs need to be kept refrigerated as the shelf-life is short, resulting in wastage and handling difficulties for patients.

– At Ferring Pharmaceuticals, as well as at other pharmaceutical companies, most of the research carried out is related to development of our future products. However, to crack the code on how to make biological drugs more stable and accessible for the patient, we also need to invest more in fundamental research focused on formulation development. This is why we need initiatives such as NextBioForm, says Helen.

The challenges aside, Helen is very optimistic regarding the future of biological drugs.

– Looking back at the early 2000’s, most biologics had to be given as intravenous infusions in a health care environment. Now we have pre-filled syringes and injection pens that the patient can use at home for self-treatment. In the coming 20 years, I expect smarter product designs making the patient’s life easier, says Helen.

Ferring Pharmaceuticals has been a part of the NextBioForm initiative since the consortium started in 2018. 

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