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Engaged, continuing partnership on process analytical technologies in pharmaceutical engineering


Renewal of the Pfizer Chair

Sherbrooke, December 11, 2018 – The Université de Sherbrooke and Pfizer have decided to renew their commitment and continue their research partnership to carry on the work initiated 10 years ago in the field of industrial pharmaceutical processes. This university–business partnership has been more than conclusive: it's novel, engaged, and continuous.

The Pfizer Chair on Process Analytical Technologies in Pharmaceutical Engineering has indeed been renewed for a third five-year term. Pfizer and the Faculty of Engineering are providing cash contributions totaling $1.65 million. In addition, Pfizer is making an in-kind contribution of about $2.69 million. The Faculty of Engineering currently provides about 115 m2 of floor space available for Chair activities. The Chair is expected to move into larger facilities as the result of a construction project at the ACELP–Innovation Park valued at about $900,000. Pfizer's major contribution to this partnership and the quality of the scientific program have also been underscored by a grant of nearly $1 million over 5 years from NSERC under its Collaborative Research and Development Program (CRD).

Professor Nicolas Abatzoglou, the chairholder, will be assisted this time by Professor Ryan Gosselin, who has been named principal collaborator. Both are professors in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology Engineering. The general objective of the renewed Chair is consistent with its recent past, namely, targeting continuity through innovation as well as transferring and applying innovations to industrial processes.

From 2008 to the Present

Overall, the Chair aims to develop and use process analytical technologies (PATs) for the pharmaceutical industry. But what is the state of things after 10 years? "By PATs, we are referring to systems for measuring, understanding, monitoring, and controlling a manufacturing process with real-time analysis of its critical parameters," explained Abatzoglou. "When system variability is controlled, the elements defining product quality are foreseeable. This allows us to monitor product quality and correct any deviations. That's mainly what we have been working on the past few years." He went on to say that "in its third term, the Chair will aim at using these results to improve existing pharmaceutical production processes and design new, more effective processes. This will lead to enhanced productivity and improved tools for controlling product quality."

In technical terms, the project's objective breaks down into two components: (1) understanding, modeling, and optimizing pharmaceutical processes involving divided solids (mix composition) and (2) designing new configurations for continuous processes based on our scientific knowledge and existing discontinuous process techniques (batch mixing).

Supported by Mathematics

Professor Ryan Gosselin will be responsible for chemometrics, that is, the application of mathematical tools—in particular statistics—to extract the maximum amount of information from chemical data. "My role in the Chair's work," pointed out Gosselin, "points to a targeted approach in data processing. While we need models that yield continuous information, it must be highly reliable so we can interpret, control, and even improve processes. This interdisciplinarity will play a role in directly implementing the results in Pfizer's industrial processes."

"We look forward to continuing our partnership with the Université de Sherbrooke," stated Jean-Sébastien Simard, Senior Manager, Process Analytical Sciences Group at Pfizer Canada. The program proposed as part of the Pfizer Chair represents a strategic opportunity for Pfizer to take part in a major research-and-development effort leading to the development of process analytical technologies in pharmaceutical engineering. The complementarity between the Université de Sherbrooke's research group and Pfizer's team in Montréal will generate exceptional synergy in a field where the needs are great and the lack of expertise acknowledged. Ultimately, the life-sciences sector will be better equipped to attract and retain the best talent and ensure the sector's growth as a major pillar of our economy," pointed out Simard.

Key Positions

The PAT solutions proposed through the synergy of engineering, science, and health sciences will result in higher levels of quality control and effectiveness. They will also support the training of a new generation of scientists capable of finding solutions to complex problems. The partnership with Pfizer opens the way to consolidate the critical research mass in the field of process analytical technologies in pharmaceutical engineering. Master's and doctoral graduates are finding high-caliber jobs and becoming the foundation for for the field's development in the future.

The project will provide funding for about two graduate students per year over five years. During the last five years, Pfizer hired four graduate students even before they had finished their degrees! Academic and practical objectives are given equal importance in the research projects, which ensures a high level of reciprocity between practice and theory.

"This is a partnership in the true sense of the word. This is a high-level partnership with a unified research team integrating scientists from our academic group and our partner industry. The Chair's projects are conducted at the Université de Sherbrooke or at Pfizer facilities in Montréal depending on the specific needs. Exchanges between the two sites occur on a nearly daily basis. In addition, our jointly supervised master's and doctoral students there are very motivated, committed, and highly productive. This win–win collaboration benefits both parties," underscored Abatzoglou.

"Renewing this long-standing partnership with Pfizer will make it possible to develop high-quality medications more consistently, which will greatly benefit patients. Clearly, there are evident economic considerations inherent in this collaborative work. In addition, the undertaking provides for the training of highly qualified specialists forming the next generation of scientists critical to the needs of the pharmaceutical sector. This partnership, multidisciplinary approach to research at the Université de Sherbrooke will reap a maximum of benefits for society," specified Professor Jean-Pierre Perreault, Vice-President, Research and Graduate Studies.

About Pfizer

Pfizer Canada is the Canadian operation of Pfizer Inc., one of the world's leading biopharmaceutical companies. Our diversified health care portfolio includes some of the world’s best known and most prescribed medicines, vaccines, and consumer health products. Every day, Pfizer Canada employees work to bring therapies to patients that significantly improve patients’ lives. We apply science and our global resources to improve the health and well-being of Canadians at every stage of life. Our commitment is reflected in everything we do, from our disease awareness initiatives to our community partnerships. To learn more about Pfizer Canada, visit pfizer.ca or you can follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Youtube.

About the Université de Sherbrooke

The Université de Sherbrooke lies at the center of one of Quebec's three major research hubs. Recognized for its sense of innovation, the university is a key partner of senior and regional governments in promoting social, cultural, and economic development. Moreover, the university stands out because of its innovative programs of study, the significant growth in its research activities in recent years, its technology-transfer successes, and its entrepreneurial and open-innovation initiatives in collaboration with industry and social communities.

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For further information:

Corporate Affairs
Pfizer Canada
1-866-9PFIZER (1-866-973-4937)

[email protected]