Researchers in focus: Ellen Bruntzell wants to increase our knowledge of peptide drugs


“Being part of the SweDeliver network is a constant source of inspiration,” states Ellen Bruntzell, PhD student at Uppsala University, who in a research project connected to both the Faculty of Pharmacy and AstraZeneca contributes new knowledge about the mechanisms that cause aggregation of peptide-based medicines.

Ellen Bruntzell, PhD student at Uppsala University

Peptides play an increasingly important role in modern pharmacy. The benefits are many and the numbers of potential peptide-based drugs moving through clinical trials are increasing rapidly. Those already approved for treatment are turning over large sums, but scientific challenges remain. Among the most central are the peptides' tendency to aggregate, which risks inhibiting the effect, safety and shelf life of the drug. In a current SweDeliver project, Ellen Bruntzell, PhD student at the Department of Medicinal Chemistry, is working to increase our knowledge of the mechanisms that cause aggregation.

“Peptides and peptide aggregation are subjects of intense research, and by using X-ray scattering to study therapeutically relevant peptides in solutions, I hope to contribute to the understanding of how peptides aggregate and which external factors influence this. So far, my focus has been on how a peptide used to treat diabetes is affected by different salts, but also the development of a suitable model to describe the size and shape of an aggregate,” says Ellen Bruntzell.

Research at the Pharmaceutical Physical Chemistry lab
Research at the Pharmaceutical Physical Chemistry lab

Ellen Bruntzell received her master of science degree in pharmacy at Uppsala University. She went on to conduct her master's thesis at the Pharmaceutical Physical Chemistry research environment, before joining the group as a PhD student in autumn 2020. The position also opened the door to the national competence center SweDeliver, a connection that keeps adding valuable dimensions to her research training.

“Being part of the SweDeliver network and interacting with so many skilled researchers and PhD students is a constant source of inspiration and provides support to find my way in the university world. The center’s close connection to the industry is probably what I appreciate the most. Having supervisors at both the Faculty of Pharmacy and, in my case, AstraZeneca adds an extra perspective that also makes the industrial relevance of my work obvious.”

The continuous dialogue with AstraZeneca have, in addition to the access to relevant material and infrastructure, enabled Ellen to build a professional network during her doctoral years that reaches far beyond the academic corridors. And even though her dissertation is still a couple of years away, she has already began to set her mid on a career within the industry.

“As a SweDeliver PhD student, you always experience new insights into current pharmaceutical research, which in turn are constant reminders of the many fantastic opportunities our field has to offer. Of course I keep all doors open, but right now a future in the pharmaceutical industry with a focus on new drugs and formulations feels very appealing.”


  • 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.



Ellen Brunzell, PhD StudentEllen Brunzell, PhD Student
Department of Medicinal chemistry

text: Magnus Alsne, photo: Mikael Wallerstedt

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Last modified: 2021-05-31