PhD Student in focus: Anton Norberg collaborates with three Giants of Big Pharma

2023-12-19

In a new SweDeliver doctoral project, international giants AstraZeneca, Ferring Pharmaceuticals and Janssen Pharmaceuticals are joining forces to develop in vitro models to predict the effect of subcutaneously administered drugs. "Everyone is showing amazing commitment," states Anton Norberg, PhD student at the Faculty of Pharmacy.

Anton Norberg, PhD student at Uppsala University and SweDeliver
Anton Norberg, PhD student at Uppsala University and SweDeliver

The peptide-based drugs bring numerous advantages: Its relatively small components that can be reused by the body, and just as importantly, they do not generate toxic breakdown products. The many opportunities are attracting the pharmaceutical companies and the number of potential drugs in clinical trials is increasing rapidly. Nevertheless, several key challenges remain. This includes the difficulty to predict how the active substances will behave when injected into fatty tissue under the skin, today constituting the main route to administer the new drugs.

“Research has so far mainly relied on animal models that are resource-intensive and rarely correlate well enough with the human body. Thus, there is an urgent need for functional in vitro models for efficient studies of subcutaneous tissue interaction of peptide and protein drugs, which in turn can generate qualitative predictions of bioavailability and absorption rate. Within the framework of my ongoing doctoral project, we hope to develop the models that so many companies require,” says Anton Norberg, PhD student at SweDeliver and the Faculty of Pharmacy.

Per Hansson, Professor of Pharmaceutical Physical Chemistry
Per Hansson, Prof. of Pharmaceutical Physical Chemistry

Anton Norberg was recruited in autumn 2023 to Per Hansson's research group at Uppsala University's Department of Medicinal Chemistry from a position as Research engineer at Cytiva's site in Uppsala. Anton's CV also contains industrial experience from pharmaceutical company Enphasys, as well as a degree from Uppsala University's Master of Science Programme in Pharmacy, where he in summer 2021 was part of the first group to participate in SweDeliver's Summer internship program, in which selected and highly promising students conduct research at one of the competence center's industrial partners.

“We had just studied drug delivery at the Master of Science Programme, and when SweDeliver launched the opportunity to do a six-week internship at Apotek Produktion & Laboratorier AB (APL), I applied immediately. I really appreciated the concept of academia and industry working closely together, and when this PhD project – with focus on an area that interests me a lot – was announced, it was once again an easy choice to submit an application.

The new project unites AstraZeneca, Ferring Pharmaceuticals and Janssen Pharmaceuticals, three international giants in Big Pharma who all contribute co-supervisors. The constellation could have put SweDeliver's often recognized open climate to the test, but three months into operations, there are no indications whatsoever that company boundaries would constitute obstacles along the way forward, rather the opposite.

“We have meetings every two weeks where everyone is showing amazing commitment. On most occasions, the discussions go on much longer than planned and I always bring back lots of valuable input with me to the lab. Of course, I am only at the beginning of my project, but with that said, I can definitely imagine a future career containing equal parts drug deliver and SweDeliver, states Anton Norberg.

FACTS

  • Anton Norberg is conducting his doctoral project Subcutaneous administration of biological drugs: In vitro properties and bioavailability and absorption rate in vivo within the framework of SweDeliver's Parenteral drug delivery Work package.
  • Supervisors in the project are Per Hansson, Uppsala University, with co-supervisors Frans Franek, AstraZeneca, Andreas Hugerth, Ferring Pharmaceuticals, and Bram Schroyen, Janssen Pharmaceuticals.
  • SweDeliver’s research in parenteral drug delivery focuses on the development of new formulations and improved delivery systems for subcutaneous drug administration.
  • This research draws on the strong scientific expertise on self-aggregation and molecular interactions within the pharmaceutical physical chemistry group at Uppsala University.

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CONTACT

Anton NorbergAnton Norberg, PhD Student
Department of Medicinal chemistry
Anton.Norberg@ilk.uu.se

text: Magnus Alsne, photo: Mikael Wallerstedt

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Last modified: 2024-04-04