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Looking back to look forward – Craig Johnston

Craig Johnston, Operations Director of CMAC based at Strathclyde University, is a steering group member for ReMediES and one of the project’s founders. As thoughts turn to the next phase of ReMediES’ work, Craig shares his reflections on the programme’s achievements, and how its successes can be taken forward in future programmes

Courtesy of Strathclyde University

ReMediES has been a large collaborative project, the scale of which we hadn’t previously seen in our sector in the UK. Before ReMediES, collaborations were on the sort of scale of each of our individual workstreams. We were advised that a programme with 22 partners, and the breadth of work we wanted to undertake, would be unmanageable. We managed to achieve this super-sizing by finding coherent themes, creating technical work packages, or Apps, that sat within our two overriding workstreams for the clinical and commercial supply chains. It took longer to get everything up and running than we had hoped but, when the ADDoPT advanced digital design project was set up a year after us, they learned from our experience and were able to do things quicker.

A personal highlight for me was speaking at CPhI in Barcelona in 2016 and helping to publicise Blacktrace’s new Titan range, which was formally launched at that show. To see new products getting out into the marketplace created by dynamic British companies like Blacktrace is fantastic.

The background work undertaken in CMAC to prove continuous manufacturing supported Cambridge Reactor Design, IntensiChem and C-Tech to bring their products to market. Meanwhile, our two CMOs partners, Robinson Brothers and Thomas Swan, have been taking on board continuous processing in how they deliver their work. In App B CMAC’s work on hot melt extrusion and 3-D printing is really attracting a lot of attention as an agile means to get material into clinical trials.

I think the focus of ReMediES on small molecules was wise. It was very ambitious already and to have gone any broader, for instance into bioprocessing, would have made it almost impossible to deliver. It’s frustrating that we haven’t been able to produce clinical trial materials through the new technologies quite yet, but time has been against us and that’s certainly something for any future project.

ReMediES has not been happening in a bubble. In terms of continuous manufacturing, for instance, there’s been so much progress globally that continuous has been becoming more mainstream, particularly for drug product. As a result, I think we will see continuous break down into several different strands in any future project.

ReMediES has always only ever been a part of what the partners have been involved in, though often helping them take big steps in their own right. The financial support CMAC received from the Scottish Funding Council to engage in ReMediES has been invaluable. Along the way, CMAC’s Tier 1 membership has grown to eight leading pharma companies. CMAC also secured seven years of funding from EPSRC to be a research hub. One of the things that helped us achieve that status was to be able to point to some of the translational work we were delivering under ReMediES, translating fundamental research into industry practice.