Blazing Trails in Biopharmaceutics: A Spotlight on Fiona, a Driving Force Behind BDD’s Innovation Journey

July 25, 2023

In this first edition of our “Meet the Staff” series, we are thrilled to spotlight a truly exceptional individual who is not only a cornerstone of our organisation, but also an industry pioneer in the field of biopharmaceutics. Allow me to introduce you to Fiona, our Director of Biopharmaceutics at BDD. With a professional trajectory steeped in formulation development and an unparalleled expertise in in vivo evaluation of novel formulations, Fiona’s journey is one of dedication, innovation, and continuous learning.

A registered pharmacist, Fiona has a wealth of experience, spanning more than two decades, that she brings to the fore in her role. She combines her scientific acumen with an instinctive understanding of the practical implications of her work, driving forward advancements in controlled release and chronotherapeutics. But Fiona’s journey and contributions to BDD go much deeper than her impressive resume. Her spirit, relentless pursuit of knowledge, and unwavering commitment to advancing the field are truly what set her apart.

Career Evolution: Can you share with us your journey that led you to becoming the Director of Biopharmaceutics at BDD? How has your background in pharmacy influenced your approach to this role?

I’ve been lucky enough to have worked across many sectors of pharmacy, starting off with a pre-registration year in hospital, which was a great introduction to a range of different clinical areas where pharmacists contribute to patient care. After that, I moved into research and academia, focusing on formulation development and the biopharmaceutics interface; it was great to be able to interact with so many researchers who were pushing the boundaries in this area! During much of this time, I was also able to undertake community pharmacy locums, which helped ground my focus on the practical needs of the patient.

This combination led me to BDD where we merge formulation development with evaluating performance in the complex in vivo environment, which is a great opportunity to see the theory become reality.

My Pharmacy degree, along with patient interactions over the years in community and hospital have helped to shape my approach in a practical sense, making sure the patient’s real-life needs are central to any project, and focusing the mind on delivering the best quality medicines.

Expertise in Controlled Release and Chronotherapeutics: You have a significant focus on controlled release and chronotherapeutics. What initially piqued your interest in these areas?

During my early research I became very interested in how modified release formulations could be used to finesse treatment for both patient convenience and improving therapeutic outcomes.

I’m a definite night owl, so in a way the influence of circadian rhythms on day to day functions has always interested me, and the further I delved into this topic during my career the more fascinating the effects of the circadian rhythm in disease states and treatments becomes. Combining these two areas together can have the potential to achieve some synergistic outcomes.

In vivo Evaluation: Your expertise in in vivo evaluation of novel formulations is commendable. Can you share some of the challenges and rewards you’ve encountered in this complex area of research?

One of the main challenges is simply the natural variability within the patient population, which needs to be taken into account in formulation design as we aim to consistently achieve the desired performance in vivo. I think this becomes more challenging the more complex dosage form design becomes. Being able to see this natural population variability play out during our clinical studies is invaluable in interpreting how a formulation has performed, and understanding where that one outlier came from! It’s rewarding working as just one part of an outstanding team at BDD, and when you see in real time the data that will guide the next generation of medicines coming in, that can be inspiring.

Could you tell us about some of the challenges you face when designing clinical studies, particularly for exploratory studies of complex formulations? How do you balance the needs for scientific accuracy and comprehensive data gathering with real-world factors and participant comfort?

Designing the best clinical study to get the most information on an exploratory study of a complex formulation can be challenging– trying to combine real world dosing scenarios and timings, while simultaneously standardising factors such as meal composition, fluid intake, ensuring enough data points are gathered to meet the scientific outcomes of the study, while also respecting the rights and comfort of the participant, can be a real juggling act, but one of the challenges I really enjoy.

Looking Forward: As an academic and industry veteran with over 20 years of experience, what trends or innovations in biopharmaceutics are you most excited about? How do you envision these changes impacting the future of BDD and the pharmaceutical industry at large?

The development of personalised medicines spans across so many different areas, and has real potential to make significant improvements in patient treatment. Combining this with advances in predictive modelling approaches and recent advances in AI means exciting times for pharmaceutical research! It will certainly be interesting to see how the industry evolves as a result, and at BDD we are certainly excited to explore these innovations with our clients.

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Unwinding from the Scientific World: With such an intensely scientific career, what hobbies or activities do you enjoy in your downtime that help you unwind and refresh your mind?

With a young family and a busy job, life can certainly be hectic! I’m a huge fan of music, in particular live music, so I take the opportunity to indulge whenever I can. I also try to get outdoors as much as possible, it’s a great way to switch off – when the snow hits I love a bit of skiing and snowboarding.

In the intricate world of biopharmaceutics, Fiona’s name shines as a beacon of excellence. With a PhD and degree in Pharmacy from the University of Strathclyde, she is not only academically accomplished, but also a consummate professional who effectively employs her knowledge for practical, impactful solutions.

Through her intelligent formulation design, Fiona has provided immense value to BDD and significantly influenced the trajectory of the pharmaceutical industry at large. Her work at the intersection of theory and application represents an extraordinary blend of innovation and insight, illuminating how deep understanding of scientific principles can lead to tangible advances in health care.

As we celebrate the talented individuals that make up our staff at BDD, Fiona’s story serves as a powerful testament to the power of passion, experience, and relentless curiosity. It is team members like Fiona who define our organisation’s spirit of innovation and our commitment to advancing the boundaries of what is possible in the pharmaceutical landscape. We are grateful to have her on our team and look forward to seeing the trail she continues to blaze in the field of biopharmaceutics.

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