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6 Simple Tips for Compelling Scientific Presentations in 2022

Eric Monlin | Public Speaking Coach & Founder, Public Speaking Inc., New York

The twenty-first century is a century of ideas, and ideas, when effectively packaged and delivered, are changing the world. Some people are exceptionally good at presenting their ideas. They have the skill that elevates them and gives them influence over their peers and society. As scientists, we all have ideas and passions, and yearn to inspire others. So, wouldn’t be amazing if we can identify the exact techniques used by the world’s greatest communicators, and apply their secrets to wow our audiences? In this article, I provide insights, based on personal research of hundreds of TED presentations, direct interviews with speakers and personal experience from years of coaching ordinary leaders and speakers over a 20 year period, to help you speak with confidence and authority, whether it is delivering presentation at your company, or a major scientific conference.

The anatomy of great presentations

In 2012, civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson gave a talk to an audience of 1,000 people in California. He received a standing ovation and his TED talk has been viewed online over one-and-half million times. For around twenty minutes, Stevenson captivated his audience by appealing to their heads and hearts. At the end of the talk, the attendees donated a total of $1 million to his charity, The Equal Justice Initiative. That’s equivalent to $50,000 for each minute he spoke!

What is remarkable is that Mr. Stevenson did not use any Power Point, visuals or props. It was only through the power of his narrative that carried the moment. I am sure you have viewed other riveting presentations. Some of these were probably backed by engaging slides and graphics. What is clear that there are many ways to share ideas. Some speakers tell stories, and others provide rich data. Great speakers are entertaining, captivating and inspiring; they understand the science and art of persuasion.

The late Steve Jobs, Apple cofounder and technology visionary is famous for his presentation skills. His iPhone launches and commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005 show his ability to captivate audiences. It is little wonder that CEOs everywhere have now adopted Steve Jobs methodology.

Dale Carnegie – The Art of Public Speaking

A key starting point for students of public speaking is Dale Carnegie self-help book, The Art of Public Speaking, first published in 1915. Dale Carnegies recommended that speakers keep their talks short. He said stories where powerful ways of connecting emotionally with audiences, and suggested the use of rhetorical tools such as metaphors and analogies. He understood the role of enthusiasm, practice, and strong delivery to touch people.

Now, while everything Carnegie recommended over 100 years ago remains true today and is the foundation of effective communication today, he did not have the tool we have today. Today’s speakers have Power Point, video and the internet.

We’re all Salespeople

It also is the case that the most effective speakers have understood the knack of getting their ideas to stand out in a sea of noise. Effective salespeople are good at inspiring potential buyers. This is the same blueprint if you want to be an effective speaker. You need to learn how to sell yourself and your ideas more persuasively. If you can’t inspire anyone else with your ideas, it doesn’t matter how great your technology is – there will be no takers!

What makes a presentation compelling?

All great and inspiring talks have three components:

  • Emotion-they touch hearts
  • Novelty-they reveal something new
  • Memorable-they present content in ways people never forget


Great communicators reach heads and touch hearts. The problem with the majority of us (especially within the sciences) is that we forget the ‘heart’ bit. We therefore need to learn how to identify our passions and use them in our stories, thereby creating deeper connections with audiences.


Novelty is one of the most effective way to capture a person’s attention. Humans, it seems, are hardwired to give attention to new things. Research released by YouTube Trends has shown that content that is truly unique and unexpected gets noticed on the platform. Thus, a key aspect of effective communication is engaging audiences is to give them new perspectives, the wow moments.


What’s the point of sharing great ideas if nobody remembers what you spoke about the moment you hand over the microphone? Research shows that to be memorable, a presentation has to be of an ideal length of time, and has to create vivid, multisensory experiences that allow the audience to recall the information successfully.

Here are 6 tips to effective presentations

Better than average communicators are generally more successful than most people, but great communicators are the ones that start movements. They are remembered long after their speeches. Think Jefferson, Churchill, Gandhi, Kennedy, King, Mandela and Obama, to name but a few.

Failure to communicate effectively in science can means research won’t get funded, products won’t get sold, projects won’t get backing, and careers won’t thrive. As career scientists, your ability to deliver captivating talks can mean the difference between acclaim and toiling in obscurity.

So here are my six simple tips you can adopt in 2022 to move your presentations to a new level, enabling you to communicate in ways that are passionate, powerful, and inspiring.

Tip #1: Unleash the Master Within

Thomas Jefferson, the third President and Founding Father of the United States of America is highly regarded even today as one of America’s most influential leaders. He was a passionate believer in democracy and considered it essential to the expression of society. He promoted national self-determination, public education, and a free press.

As the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence, he wrote many inspiring speeches, which went on to shape the course of history. The preamble to the Declaration of Independence, for example, evokes the original spirit of the American nation:

‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness….’

Passion and public speaking are intimately linked. To touch your audience, you need to dig deep to identify how you’re uniquely and meaningfully connected to your presentation topic. This is where you’re operating at people’s emotional level. Passion is your why, or inspiration. It is not a passing interest or a hobby but rather that thing that’s core to what makes you, you! It is what gives you the authority, mastery and command, and your presentation will be empty without it.

Bear in mind that in some situations, what fires you up might not be obvious. Often, it is dressed up as something else. Howard Schultz, the former Chairman and Executive of Starbucks once said his passion was not coffee, but rather creating a third place between work and home! Coffee was only the by-product.

Passion is what makes successful speakers always enthusiastic about sharing their ideas. They have bags of charisma. They radiate joy and positivity about their ideas, and they are motivated by ‘good’ intentions, such as a desire to make a difference, create impact or leave a legacy.

Just as we know that happiness at and passion about the work are vital to career success, it is the same with public speaking. If you’re not having a great time in your job, how do you expect to generate enthusiasm in your presentation about it?

So while we can talk about effective storytelling, designing beautiful PowerPoint slides or how to use body language more effectively in your public speaking but the fact, and it is a fundamental fact, that effective presentations require passion first. Effective stories, slides or body language mean little if the speaker does not radiate passion and enthusiasm about what they’re communicating.

Tip #2: Master the Art of Storytelling

In this information-saturated age that we live, you won’t be won’t be heard unless you tell compelling stories. Facts and figures, and all the rational things that we think are important in science actually don’t stick in our minds that well. However, stories create “sticky” memories by attaching emotions to things that happen.

Stories also affirm who we are. We all want affirmations that our lives have meaning. And nothing does a greater affirmation than when we connect through stories.

This is why people who know how to weave stories about their work and share good stories have a powerful advantage over others.

But what constitutes a good story? Consider the case of major film studios, such as MGM, Pixar and Disney. They have individually mastered the ability to move audiences deeply, causing adults to tear up next to children, while persuasively transporting us into make-believe worlds.

Their perennial success in the business of movies is down to the way they choose ideas, create compelling characters, invoke empathy, drama and conflict, create villains and heroes, and the endings (the moral), that is, storytelling. It is the same with great speakers.

Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, believed that persuasion happened when three components were represented: ethos, logos, and pathos. Ethos is credibility. We tend to trust and agree with people we respect for their achievements, titles, experiences, etc. Logos is about persuasion through logic and data. Pathos is the act of appealing to emotions.

You can see this approach in Stevenson’s TED talk. For instance, he started with his personal experiences. The first five minutes (30 percent of the presentation) were on his personal stories and experiences. Data about incarceration in U.S. prisons came in later to support his ideas. He chose his approach to make it easy for the audience to connect with him on a personal and emotional level.

Studies have shown that inspiring communicators use three types of story.

The first types of story are personal stories about who we are. They should be descriptive and rich with imagery to enable the listener to imagine themselves with you at the same time. Delivered well, a captivating story makes your audience know something about you, which builds trust. Granted, personal stories are a sensitive subject, but if you choose them carefully, nothing comes close to grabbing the audience’s attention early on. A personal experience that produced an unexpected outcome often works well. The key thing is not to make them show how great you are, etc.

The second types of story are stories about other people who have learned a lesson the audience can relate to. The power of such stories is that they shed light on our shared humanity. So while personal stories can evoke empathy, it is stories about other people that audiences mostly empathise with. Empathy is the capacity to recognise and feel others’ experiences.

The third type of story are stories about successes or failures of products or brands. Harvard Business School is famed for the Case Method to teaching MBA students. These cases usually tell stories (real or simulated) about challenges faced by business executives and lessons that can be learnt from their experiences. This way, students are able to relate to business theorems with particular challenges.

Just as a great novel or movie goes about storytelling, a great presentation has to have a narrative, a cast of characters (hero and villain) and the moral of the story. The story should reveal a challenge (villain) being faced, a protagonist or hero (your solution) who is committed to rising to the challenge, the townspeople (customers) to be freed by the villain, and the outcome (the people who will be freed and live happily ever after their struggles are ended).

Tip 3: Have a Conversation

Great speakers deliver their content in a natural, authentic way, akin to having a comfortable conversation with a friend. It is a skill learned through practice and is not something that can just be memorised and perfected in an instant.

Think of the times you had a genuine conversation with a friend. Hopefully, you’re typically operating in a zone of emotional rapport. You were able to persuade your friend because you had gained their trust, and your voice, gestures, and body language were all in sync with your words.

This authenticity does not happen spontaneously. It is something that is learned, through practice. It takes hours of practice, searching for the right words that best represent the way you feel, delivering those words in a powerful way for maximum impact.

Good verbal delivery is based on what is called in the military as ‘commanding presence’. Commanding encompasses the following key elements:

  • Rate: the speed at which you speak
  • Volume: the loudness or softness
  • Pitch: high or low inflections
  • Pauses: short pauses to put emphasis on key words
  • Gestures, facial expressions, and body language

Great communicators speak at the right rate (the ideal rate of speech is between 180 and 200 words per minute), they speak concisely and precisely, and their voices project across the entire room because they speak from their diaphragms. They compliment the words with the gestures and facial expressions, to make a strong argument even stronger.

Tip 4: Reveal Something New

Great speakers incorporate new information or perspectives that are completely new to their audiences. The information may be packaged differently or presented in a way to solve an old problem. Revealing new perspectives works because our human brains love novelty. Unfamiliar, unexpected or unusual outcomes in a presentation audience, jolts them out of their preconceived notions, and provides them with new perspectives.

One of the most captivating public speakers on the web today is Professor Hans Rosling. He often talks about population, economic development and global health issues. As well as delivering data in a fascinating and easy-to-digest way, he is able to reveal completely new perspectives.

This is the same approach taken by all successful communicators. They opt to deliver content in ways that reveal something that is entirely new; things the audience was not familiar with.

Seth Godin, the popular blogger and author, has made a career out of delivering ideas differently. He told a TED audience in 2003 that in a society with information overload, the natural instinct is for audiences to ignore most of it. Thus, delivering the same old, tired content using the same boring methods as everyone else is bound to fail. Adding a little spin to content allows the audience to be more receptive to the message.

Tip #5: Incorporate Jaw Dropping Moments

A jaw-dropping moment in a presentation is when the speaker delivers a shocking, impressive or surprising moment that is very moving and memorable that it grabs the audience’s attention, and is remembered long after the presentation is over. Jaw-dropping moments are capable of heightening emotions, helping listeners recall and act on the message.

In 2009, Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft delivered a talk at a technology conference about malaria. While on stage, he opened up a glass jar and said, “Malaria is spread by mosquitoes. I brought some here, just so you could experience this. We’ll let those roam around the auditorium little bit. There’s no reason only poor people should have the experience.” The audience roared with laughter, cheered, and applauded. Bill Gates had effectively delivered his jaw-dropping moment.

A few sentences earlier, Bill gates had talked about how many children lives’ could be saved through better medicines and vaccines. He was able to deliver an emphatic talk. He used shock and humour to drive his point home.

Journalists call the mosquito gimmick “the hook.” It’s the wow moment, the showstopper and the device used to capture the audience’s attention. Used cleverly, it allows listeners to share your story. So, before creating a Power Point presentation, take time to think about the story first. In the same manner a movie director storyboards the scenes before shooting, you should create the story before opening the tool. Aim to tap into al the senses – seeing, touching, feeling, and smelling.

Things that shock, surprise, bring fear, joy or wonder impact how vividly we remember them. It is the reason many of us remember our first kiss, the birth of a child, winning an award, break-ups or death of a loved one. It is as though these emotionally charged events are burned into our memories. Therefore, if you want to connect with an audience in an emotional level, you will need to present information that is vivid, using tools and examples that meaningful and concrete.

Tip #6: Be mindful of Cognitive Backlog

Most memorable presentations are noted for three key elements:

  • Are concise and organised systematically
  • Use multisensory approaches to paint mental pictures in their audiences
  • Are authentic, open and transparent.

Conciseness and Organisation

It is an undeniable fact that listening is mentally draining. Thinking, speaking and listening are physically exhausting. Think of the last time you sat through a one-hour lecture or power Point presentation. Too much information prevents the effective transfer of ideas, leaves the audience anxious and even frustrated. Researchers refer to this information overload as “cognitive backlog,” which is akin to piling on weights, which makes the mental load heavier.

This is the reason all TED talks are required to be no more than 20 minutes. TED believes that 20 minutes is short enough to hold one’s attention, and long enough to cover anything relevant.

If you must give longer presentations, it is necessary to split them into chunks, for instance, by adding breaks, videos, stories or demonstrations, every 10 minutes. The longer the presentation, the more the listener has to work to organise, comprehend and recall information.

John F Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, gave a famous speech at Rice University in late 1962. It was here that Kennedy outlined his vision for America to explore the moon. The speech, which lasted just over 17 minutes, captured the nation’s imagination about the importance of exploring space.

But it is not enough to be concise. In fact conciseness means nothing if the information is haphazard and unstructured. This is why some influential communications professionals talk of the rule of threes. This rule simply means that people remember three pieces of information well. Add more items and retention starts to wane quickly.

To make use of the rule of three, structure your story in three key chunks or messages around a central theme. It turns out that the rule of three pervades our work and social lives on a daily basis. You will find it in literature (the three little pigs and, the three musketeers), in the arts (three primary colours), politics (the three arms of government), etcetera. If it works for the world’s greatest writers and painters, it will work for presentations, too.

Use of Multisensory Experiences to Paint Mental Pictures

Think again about a particularly boring talk you had the misfortune of attending. What made it boring? What was your level of engagement? Chances are that it had too much text, lacked structure, was visually unappealing and the content was unengaging.

The fact is that boring does not wash well with the human brain. The brain craves multisensory experiences and will quickly switch off when it is exposed to stuff that is boring. Having presentations that include more than one sense: sight, sound, touch, and smell are difficult to ignore. This is why great talks use mesmerizing images, captivating videos, intriguing props, beautiful words, and more than one voice to bring the story to life.

Granted, some of these experiences, such as smell and taste, are difficult to incorporate in presentations. The key thing is to build a presentation around one or two main senses, and incorporate one other. The harder experiences can be simply described.

Slides should incorporate images and videos rather than text whenever possible. The audience is far more likely to recall information when it is presented in a combination of pictures and text rather than text alone.

The other important sense to use is sound. The auditory sensation is very powerful and how the content is delivered (pitch, rate, volume, intensity, sound effects) can all touch the listeners soul.

The final sensation to use is feeling. Feeling has been described as the “holy grail” of presentations owing to its ability to transport audiences to another place. The visual display of information helps the audience to see it while touching allows them to complete the journey.

Being Authentic, Open and Transparent

Although public speaking is an artform, it is not act one can put on. Am sure you have met a person who acts and speaks one way in private only to sound completely different when delivering a presentation. Such people act, look and sound like two different people. They lack authenticity, openness and transparency. Unfortunately, audiences are not thick – they can see through a fib, so trying to be somebody you’re not is a sure way to fail at building rapport with your audience.

If your goal is to inspire the audience and take them with you, you must be real. Here are some things to do:

  1. Use your own voice – there’s no need to sound ‘posh’ or adopt some ‘esoteric voice.’ Chances are that it will make it difficult for your audience to keep up.
  2. Disregard the fact this is a presentation. Instead, regard it as a conversation, the kind you typically have with family and friends.
  3. Relax! This is not a sermon on the mountain, rather you’re just sharing your knowledge and expertise for people to take as much, or as little, as they wish.
  4. Be yourself – you’re fantastic at it!

Finally, try to recapture your inner 3-year old-the times you were carefree, and had no hang ups. If you can get back to that, you’ll be an impactful public speaker.

Medication Swallowing Difficulties: The 3 Steps Needed To Improve Patient Experience

Dr. E Vickers (with additional contributions from E Mwesigwa) |

Individuals with swallowing difficulties face inequalities in their access to safe medicines and could be at a greater risk of poor health outcomes compared with the general population. This article sets out to highlight the scale of the problem and suggests actions that the pharmaceutical industry and regulators can take to improve the situation.

What are Swallowing Difficulties?

Swallowing, the act by which we ingest solid food, liquids or medication, is in fact a highly intricate process that requires the interplay of several nerves and muscles in the oral cavity, pharynx and oesophagus in order to safely transfer bolus into the stomach.

While the vast majority of us do this simple act without much thought, there are millions of people who, for one reason or another, struggle to swallow. For them, the ability to initiate and complete a normal swallow is tortuous, accompanied by anxiety, pain, choking or aspiration.

Swallowing disorders occur in all age groups, either as a result of congenital abnormalities, damage to structures in the oropharyngeal anatomical structures and or short-term or long-term medical conditions. In some age groups and populations, however, swallowing difficulties are far more significant and pernicious. For example, in children with learning disabilities as well as senior citizens who need daily medication to alleviate their conditions.

In some situation, an inability to swallow solid medication can be a matter of life and death. For instance, in those with Parkinson’s disease where 70-80% of sufferes have swallowing problems or those who have had a stroke, where swallowing difficulties run at 90%.

Read about our article on Empathy – What the pharmaceutical industry can learn from the IT Industry

The main causes of swallowing difficulties catalogued in the medical literature include:

  • Dysphagia, the most well-known among swallowing disorders, refers to a group of disorders characterised by changes in the structures or neurological control of the swallow. Studies show that dysphagia affects 3 % of the general population.
  • Odynophagia which refers to pain swallowing caused by irritation or infection of the oral mucosae and oesophagus, particularly in individuals with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, oesophagitis or disorders of motility of the oesophagus.
  • Phagophobia which is the fear and avoidance of swallowing foods, liquids or medication, usually based on the person’s fear of choking. It is on a psychological dimension and characterized by swallowing complaints but no abnormalities upon physical examination or investigation.

Note that difficulty to swallow is not in itself a disease, rather it may be an indication of an underlying structural, neurological or other dysfunction for which proper medicare should be sought since factors that lead to abnormal swallowing, whether it is dysphagia, odynophagia or phagophobia, can be life limiting, and if severe, life threatening.

Anatomy and Physiology of Swallowing

The normal swallow permits an individual to handle a wide range of solid and liquid products of varying volumes, textures and consistencies. This process can generally be divided into different phases, depending on whether the material is a liquid or a solid.

But first, it is essential to quickly review the anatomy and physiology of swallowing as a basis for appreciating swallowing difficulties and how to design effective interventions.

The anatomy of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx and the innervations of the muscle in the oral cavity are shown in the figure below:

The tongue has both oral and pharyngeal surfaces. The oral cavity is separated from the pharynx by the faucial pillars. The pharynx has a layer of constrictor muscles that originate on the cranium and hyoid bone, and the thyroid cartilage anteriorly.

Note that the anatomy of the head and neck of infants is different from that of adults. In infants, teeth are not erupted, the hard palate is flatter, and the larynx and hyoid bone is higher in he neck to the oral cavity. The epiglottis touches the back of the soft palate so the larynx is open to the nasopharynx, but the airway is separated from the oral cavity by a soft tissue barrier.

The physiology of normal eating and swallowing is described by two models: the four stage model for liquids and the process model for solids.

Although there are differences in the sequence of events in the two models, it is possible to reduce the swallow to three main phases as follows:

Oral Phase

Upon introducing a liquid or solid into the mouth, the material is prepared into a bolus and or transported to the middle of the tongue. During this stage, the posterior part of the oral cavity will be sealed by the action of the soft palate and tongue, thus preventing premature leakage of bolus into oropharynx before the swallow. Note that the tendency for leakage increases with age.

After a brief moment the anterior tongue rises, touching the alveolar ridge of the hard palate just behind the upper teeth. The posterior tongue drops, opening the back of the oral cavity. The surface of the tongue lifts upward, propelling the bolus back along the palate and into the pharynx.

Pharyngeal Phase

The pharyngeal swallow is a swift activity that follows the oral phase. It serves two main purposes:

(1) to permit bolus to be propelled through the pharynx and the upper oesophageal sphincter and into the oesophagus, and

(2) to protect the airway by preventing entry of food into the larynx and trachea.

In this phase, the soft palate elevates and contacts the walls of the pharynx, leading to the closure of the nasopharynx at the point the bolus hurtles into the pharynx. The base of the tongue retracts, pushing the bolus against the pharyngeal walls. Constrictor muscles of the pharynx then contract, squeezing the bolus downward, and together with retraction of the base of the tongue, pushes the bolus downward.

For obvious reasons, the ability to safely pass bolus through the pharynx without aspirating or regurgitation into the nasal cavity is important in human swallowing. Therefore, there are several mechanisms at play which the body uses to prevent entry of food particles into the airway during swallowing.

Oesophageal Phase

The oesophageal phase describes the transport of the bolus through the oesophagus. The oesophagus is a tube-shaped structure originating from the lower part of the upper oesophageal sphincter and terminating at the lower oesophageal sphincter.

During the swallow, the muscles relax allowing the bolus to pass down. Movement is facilitated by a series of peristaltic waves, as well as gravity, both of which effectively transport the bolus through lower oesophageal sphincter and into the stomach.

Swallowing Abnormalities

Abnormal swallowing can result from a wide range of conditions and disorders related to the anatomy and or physiology or the oral, pharyngeal and oesophageal dysfunction.

Swallowing difficulties manifest in different ways, which include:

  • Painful chewing or swallowing
  • Dry mouth (Xerostomina)
  • Difficulty controlling solids or liquids in the mouth
  • Hoarse or wet voice quality
  • Coughing or chocking before, during or after swallowing
  • Feeling of obstruction (globus sensation)


Dysphagia arises from abnormalities in structure or motility and ranges from inability to initiate swallowing to solids getting stuck in the oesophagus.

Generally, two main types of dysphagia are recognised:

Oropharyngeal dysphagia, whereby patients are unable to transfer food into the oesophagus by swallowing. Oropharyngeal dysphagia is subdivided into structural/obstructive and neurological/propulsive.

From a clinical point of view, any difficulties swallowing solids indicates either structural or propulsive oropharyngeal dysphagia, while difficulty swallowing liquids indicates propulsive or neurological oropharyngeal dysphagia.

Oesophageal dysphagia is when patients can initiate swallowing process however as the food passes down the oesophagus and into the stomach, they experience discomfort. The underlying causes can also be structural or propulsive abnormalities.

The table below lists some of the most common causes of oral and pharyngeal dysphagia

Common Causes of Oral and Pharyngeal Dysphagia

Neurological disorders and stroke Structural lesions Psychiatric disorders
Cerebral infarction

Brain-stem infarction

Intracranial haemorrhage

Parkinson’s disease

Multiple sclerosis

Motor neurone disease


Myasthenia gravis



Forestier’s disease

Congenital web

Zenker’s diverticulum

Ingestion of caustic material


Psychogenic dysphagia



Connective tissue diseases: Polymyositis & Muscular Dystrophy


Iatrogenic Causes:

Surgical resection

Radiation fibrosis


From: Palmer Jb et al, 2006. In Braddom R (ed): Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Elsevier, Philadelphia. Pp 597-616.


Odynophagia is the disorder in which swallowing is associated with pain. It differs from dysphagia, which is simply difficulty when swallowing — and does not associate with pain, whereas odynophagia always does.

Odynophagia can be caused by infective and non-infective inflammatory processes, benign and malignant esophageal disorders such as achalasia, gastro-esophageal reflux disease and carcinoma.

Some of the conditions associated with odynophagia include:

  • Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
  • Esophagitis
  • Candidiasis
  • Esophageal Cancer


Phagophobia is a relatively rare type of anxiety disorder associated with swallowing. It is often mixed up with pseudodysphagia, which is the fear of choking. The key difference between these two phobias is that individuals with phagophobia are anxious about the act of swallowing whereas those with pseudophagia are afraid that swallowing will lead to choking.

Irrespective, phagophobia and pseudodysphagia can be life limiting, and in the case of medication, life threatening. This is especially the case in the small but significant cohort of individuals, who for reasons still to be known, have phagophobia and pseudodysphagia related to medication.

Unfortunately, the causes of phagophobia are poorly understood and may even be multifactorial, involve past experiences, underlying health conditions or simply learned through observing others who struggle to swallow certain things.

It has been found that individuals who watch others experience difficulties (e.g pain or embarrassment) when swallowing may go on to develop phagophobia.

Finally, phagophobia may occur in the absence of any underlying triggers.

Symptoms of phagophobia include:

  • Anticipatory anxieties before ingestion of meals
  • The tendency to eat very small mouthfuls or drinking frequently or large amounts of liquids during meals as a way to aid swallowing
  • Extreme anxiety and fear at the thought of swallowing
  • Panic attacks
  • Rapid heart rate and breathing
  • Reluctance or avoidance of eating or drinking in front of others
  • Sweating
  • Switching to an all-liquid diet as a way to alleviate anxiety around swallowing
  • Weight loss (skipping medication and exacerbation of illness if related to medication)

Oral Medicines and Swallowing Difficulties

The prevalence of swallowing difficulties varies greatly, including population under consideration, comorbidities and assessment methods. Experts contend that prevalence may actually be greater than published figures would indicate since many patients may not report symptoms.

Generally, 70 – 90% of all seniors have some degree of swallowing difficulty. In certain cases, for instance, Parkinson’s disease and Stroke, swallowing difficulties are the norm, and have been reported to be as high as 90%. According to a recent study, swallowing difficulties run at 3% in the world adult population, but are 10 times higher in those with neurological and or psychological conditions, such as learning disabilities, severe mental illness or dementia.

With oral administration of medication being the most preferred route, the swallowing of solid medication, particularly tablets and capsules, presents specific challenges to anybody with swallowing problems. To make matters worse, solid dosage forms need to be taken with water, which requires the same individuals to control a thin fluid, which complicates matters even more.

Which medication types are suitable for dysphagia and other swallowing difficulties?

Most medication in use today is formulated as tablet dosage forms. According to the British Pharmacopoeia, a tablet is circular in shape with either a flat or convex faces prepared by compressing the active pharmaceutical ingredients with excipients.

In reality, they are available in a wide range of sizes, shapes, colours and indentations. In addition, tablets may be sugar or polymer film coated as well.

The oral route of drug administration is the most preferred route of taking medicine, and understandably, manufacturers of medicines recognise this. As a result, oral medicines account for more than 70% of all medicines in use.

Tablets (and more specifically, standard compressed tablets) are the single most popular dosage form, responsible for 50% of all pharmaceutical preparations manufactured and sold. Some of the reasons for popularity of tablets include:

  • Tablets allow accurate dosage of medicament to be prefabricated and administered simply and conveniently
  • Tablets are consistent with respect to weight and appearance
  • Drug release rate can be fine-tuned to meet physiological and pharmacological needs of patients
  • Tablets can be mass-produced simply and quickly, which allows the wider public to have access to medicines that would otherwise be too costly.

However, to anyone with swallowing difficulties, swallowable tablets are a nightmare. Problems with the neural control or the structures involved in swallowing mean that swallowable tablets are not ideal sufferers of dysphagia. Too big (frankly, most are) and they are a choking hazard. Too small and they become difficult to detect on the tongue and move around in the mouth to initiate a safe swallow.

If the tablets can be crushed beforehand, it can greatly help pass them down however, as with anything that requires precision, the possibility of errors increases with the number of additional manipulations. Thus, having technologies that enable dosing without the need for additional dilution, elaboration or mixing as is always needed in paediatric, geriatric or other swallowing disorders would be of great benefit.

There are alternatives to swallowable tablets, which depending on the type of drug substance and its intended use, may be considered:

  • Buccal Tablets
  • Caplets and Coated Tablets
  • Chewable tablets
  • Effervescent Tablets
  • Lozenges
  • Mintablets
  • Multiparticulates
  • Orally Disintegrating Tablets (ODTs)
  • Powders for reconstitution
  • Sublingual Tablets
  • Hard Gelatin Capsules
  • Soft Gelatin Capsules
  • Chewing Gums
  • Gummies
  • Topical Products (Ointments, Creams, Lotions and Transdermal Patches)
  • Parenteral Products
  • Inhalation Products

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Key Characteristics of Different Tablets Types

Type of tabletsDescription and AdvantagesKey Considerations
Swallow TabletsThe vast majority of tablets fall in this category. These tablets are designed for per-oral administration by swallowingMost tablets belong to this category. They are designed to be swallowed whole although some may be crushed/split up to ease ingestion.
Buccal TabletsBuccal tablets are designed to be placed under the cheek mucosa or between the lip and gum. Typically designed for slow release and absorption.Buccal tablets permit administration without the requirement for water/swallowing Drugs should not be bitter or unpleasant in the mouth Usually very small and flat and do not require addition of a disintegrant
Sublingual TabletsSublingual are designed to be placed under the tongue. Unlike buccal tablets, they allow rapid absorption through blood vessels under the tongue while avoiding 1st-pass effect.Sublingual tablets permit administration without the requirement for water/swallowing Drugs should be soluble, typically low dose and not be bitter or unpleasant in the mouth Careful selection of excipients required
Orally Disintegrating Tablets (ODTs)ODTs are designed to rapidly disintegrate on the tongue into a smooth solution or suspension that can be swallowed without the need for water.Two key characteristics that a dosage form labelled as an ODT must possess is a rapid disintegration time of 30 s or less, and a tablet weight of 500 mg or less
Chewable TabletsChewable tablets consist of a mild effervescent excipient base which can be chewed and broken down into a smooth consistency which can be swallowed.To provide fast disintegration and dissolution, the tablet should be designed to be soft or easy to chew. The active drug substance must not be unpleasant to the taste, and frequently, flavours and sweeteners are required.

Unfortunately, too many products on the market today are formulated with little consideration of those with swallowing difficulties. Products for children are perforce prepared from products designed for adults; and the same applies for the elderly, who often have swallowing problems while also requiring prolonged, non-crushable tablets. In 2020, for instance, out of the 200 best-selling medicines in the United States, only six were offered in easy-to-swallow formats. It is not funny any longer. It is unsafe and something needs to be done soon.

That people have to crush medication in the 21st century so that children and seniors can be treated despite the wide availability of technologies and excipients and knowhow is disgraceful.

Actions needed to reduce inequalities in dysphagia

The prescription remains the most widely used medical intervention today. Yet it is estimated that up to 50 % of all patients prescribed medication fail to take it correctly. This not only leads to waste of resources but could lead to treatment failure and sub-optimal outcomes.

If society is to equitably offer quality healthcare to all, it will be necessary to take a whole person approach, by recognising the many root causes of inequality, and engender system-wide action, from regulators, pharmaceutical companies, patient groups as well as healthcare workers as the immediate contact points for patients.

Here is a range of preventative actions that local areas can take to reduce inequalities and improve health outcomes and the lives of people with mental illness.

1. A better understanding of the scale of the problem

Although dysphagia and other swallowing disorders are widespread, the scale of the problem, especially as it relates to medication, is still poorly understood.

It is generally known that patients, for one reason or another, tend to underreport their problems during contact with healthcare providers. The lack of understanding on the scale of the problem generally hinders society’s ability to deliver equitable healthcare.

Therefore, investment in data gathering is urgently required if we are to fully understand the scale of this problem. When delivering care, providers and institutions need to ask patients if they have issues swallowing solid medicines and know the implications of not offering working solutions.

In the 21st century, it is not just a patients’ physical comfort that is important but also their emotional well-being. This way, more joined-up interventions can be implemented.

2. Partnership between the public, government and pharmaceutical companies

With growing healthcare needs, increasing expectations from the health systems, and challenges of insufficient resources, it is unlikely that health services can be provided solely by a single actor. More than ever before, healthcare requires profit and social purpose to converge.

Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have traditionally taken many forms, varying in the level of participation or risk taken by different parties. We are not talking about PPPs as such, but rather, collaborative framework in which patient organizations, the pharmaceutical industry and healthcare providers work together, get closer to patients and gain deeper insights about their individual issues and not just as patients.

Although there is no-one-size-fits-all model, such a collaborative model can actually facilitate development of better therapies.

3. Legislation and incentivisation of marketing authorisation applicants

Providing medicines for marginalised or neglected demographics, such as those with swallowing problems, has been an endemic oversight in the pharmaceutical industry. This has been partly because marginal groups have not always been a viable commercial market or because companies were simply not bothered.

Given how prevalent dysphagia and other swallowing issues are, urgent action is required. There is need to join forces to pressure regulators and drug producers to address this inequality. One way is to require applicants for marketing authorisations to provide introduce alternative formats aimed at those with swallowing difficulties at launch in return for reduced regulatory fees or marketing exclusions.

It is clear that the current strategy of relying on the largesse of individual companies is not working, and a more sustainable approach is required.

Final thoughts

The vast majority of medication available today is in the form of swallowable tablets. These formats are often not appropriate for patients with dysphagia or other swallowing difficulties. Lack of availability of suitable formats for suffers predisposes these groups to sub-optimal treatments and contributes to healthcare inequalities.

If society is to equitably offer quality healthcare to all, it is necessary to take a whole person approach, recognise the many root causes of inequality, and engender system-wide action, from regulators, pharmaceutical companies, patient groups as well as healthcare workers as the immediate contact points for patients.

Sources Used

Overview of Drug Therapy in Older Adults. The Merck Mannual. (available at

Wright, D., 2014. Prescribing Medicines for Patients with Dysphagia. New York: Grosvenor House Publishing, pp.1-101.

Lisa Tews, Jodi Robinson.,2007. Dysphagia. In Kauffman T, L et al., (editors). Geriatric Rehabilitation Manual (Second Edition), Churchill Livingstone, pp 381-385. (

Dysphagia. National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders. (available at

Beating Burnout: A Practical Guide for Pharmaceutical Scientists

Unrealistic pressures to perform and deliver results are creating burnout among many career scientists. If not adressed, work-related chronic reduces productivity, mental health deterioration.

At the last summer Olympics in Tokyo, Simone Biles, the four-time Olympic champion, stunned and also won applaud when she announced her withdrawal from the gymnastic team final and women’s individual finals to focus on her mental health.

For most of us engrossed in the world of chemicals and drug substances, the pommel horse is as far away as it gets, yet we can easily relate with the daily struggles of work, very much like Ms Biles. We may hate Mondays, find it hard to get motivated for even the smallest tasks, we often feel like we’ve lost skills, and the career that excited us and brought so much happiness is no more! Some of us have even contemplated leaving the field altogether, or even worse.

According to recent studies, these feelings are very common. It is just that among scientists, the rates of mental health are higher than those in the general public. In some reports, one in three PhDs is at risk of developing a mental-health disorder, including depression.

Many mental health problems are driven, in part, by the immense pressure on scientists to win funding, publish work in reputable periodicals, land jobs or create innovations in an unforgivingly competitive environment, where tolerance for failure is low. And COVID-19 has not helped matters.

To cap it all, studies have identified that scientists have poor mentorship, poor access to counselling services and those in their line management lack the training to manage wellbeing. This is why universities and employers are now being urged to improve mental health support services, revise leave-of-absence policies, and provide mentorship training all those in line management roles.

In this article, I describe burnout, a common cause of mental health deterioration among working professionals. I describe its causes and risk factors and how it can be prevented. Finally, I outline practical steps on how to recover if you have work-related stress.

What is burnout?

Burnout or chronic work-related stress, is a condition characterised by exhaustion. According the World Health Organisation, burnout is a syndrome arising from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:

  • feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
  • increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
  • reduced professional efficacy.

Three of the world’s experts on burnout, Susan Jackson, Christina Maslach and Michael Leiter, all agree that burn-out is an occupational phenomenon, specifically defining as a psychological response to interpersonal stressors of work. It is different and apart from experiences in other areas of life.

It is important to mention that work-related stress is not an official medical condition in itself, it is usually only a symptom of other underlying issues, such as depression.

The sinister thing about burnout is that it may even go unnoticed and sufferers may not even be aware that the source of burn-out is their job!

Suffice to say burn-out, whether formally diagnosed or not, has the ability to impact both mental and physical health. And for this reason, it is important that burnout is recognised early and a plan put in place to help one recover from it.

How to tell if you have work-related stress

According to psychologist Susan Maslach, burnout manifests in the form of three symptoms, namely exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy due to chronic stressors at work.

Exhaustion is the main symptom of burnout. It encompasses deep emotional exhaustion, physically, cognitively and emotionally, leading to an individual’s inability to function.

Cynicism or depersonalisation refers to a loss of connection and engagement with one’s work. Essentially, the sufferer of chronic burnout feels mentally removed from work, including colleagues, customers or assignments.

Inefficacy refers to feelings of failure and a lack of sense of accomplishment or productivity. Individuals who experience inefficacy feel their skills are eroding and may worry that they will not be successful in other areas of work.

The signs or symptoms can be physical, psychological and behavioural:

Physical symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Muscular tension
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sleeping difficulties, such as insomnia
  • Gastrointestinal upsets, such as diarrhoea or constipation
  • Dermatological disorders.

Psychological symptoms include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Discouragement
  • Irritability
  • Pessimism
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed and unable to cope
  • Cognitive difficulties, such as a reduced ability to concentrate or make decisions.

Behavioural symptoms include:

  • An increase in sick days or absenteeism
  • Aggression
  • Diminished creativity and initiative
  • A drop in work performance
  • Problems with interpersonal relationships
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Lower tolerance of frustration and impatience
  • Disinterest
  • Isolation.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you constantly feel like you do not have energy for anything?
  • Is your sleep interrupted? For instance, do you sleep during the whole day or have problems falling or staying asleep?
  • Do you feel like you have to force yourself to go into work? Do you struggle to get started with work tasks?
  • Do you notice that you are easily irritated or impatient with work colleagues, clients or customers?
  • Have you become particularly critical or cynical about your work or others at work?
  • Do you feel you’re not as productive as you were in the past? Are you struggling to focus on your work?
  • Do you feel you no longer take interest in your achievements? Has your passion for the job gone?
  • Are you increasingly binge-eating to feel better? Are you using alcohol or drug to improve your mood?
  • Do you frequently suffer from headaches, unexplained stomach problems or any other unexplained pains or twitches?

Note that the mere fact that you answered yes to any of these questions, it does not necessarily mean you have work-related stress. Equally, you shouldn’t have to live with any of these feelings. Seeking help from professionals will help you deal with it early enough so that you can regain your mojo back and start living life to its fullness.

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Common causes of burnout

Chronic work-related stress is a growing concern in the workplace around the world. Health experts attribute the rise in burnout to increase in work demands and lack of awareness on practical ways to manage it.

All the following issues have been identified as potential stressors at workplaces. A risk management approach will identify which ones exist in your own workplace and what causes them. They include:

  • Organisation culture
  • Bad management practices
  • Job content and demands
  • Physical work environment
  • Relationships at work
  • Change management
  • Lack of support
  • Role conflict

If a job saps a lot of energy and exposes you constantly to stress, for instance the pressure to meet very tight deadlines, absence of social and supportive network or if the job is chaotic or monotonous, the chances of experiencing burnout are much higher.

Some of the factors that commonly cause burnout include:

  • Long hours
  • Heavy workload
  • Changes within the organisation
  • Tight deadlines
  • Changes to duties
  • Job insecurity
  • Lack of autonomy
  • Boring work
  • Insufficient skills for the job
  • Over-supervision
  • Inadequate working environment
  • Lack of proper resources
  • Lack of equipment
  • Few promotional opportunities
  • Harassment
  • Discrimination
  • Poor relationships with colleagues or bosses
  • Crisis incidents, such as an workplace death
  • Unclear expectations

How to prevent or handle early stages of burnout

Thanks to ongoing research by psychologists and health professionals, our understanding of causes and solutions for burnout is much improved. We have a better understanding of what to do once the symptoms of burnout are picked up.

So here are some strategies that have been successful across the board:

  1. Focus on self-care and wellbeing

It’s crucial to refill your physical and emotional energy, as well as your ability to focus by prioritising sleep hygiene, nutrition, exercise, social networks, and practices that promote mental calmness, such as meditation, journaling and nature appreciation.

If for one reason or another you find it difficult to squeeze in these activities in your schedule, take a week to examine how you spend your time.

You can then take a look at each block of time in your day and record how you spend time, i.e., what you do, the people you spend the time with and how you feel. Then score each activity in terms of how valuable it is or how it leaves you (1 = drained, 10 = energised).

This can enable you find breaks and opportunities to reduce exposure to situations that do not build you, and this way, find breaks for rejuvenating moments away from work.

  1. Shift your outlook

Although relaxation, resting and rejuvenation can help alleviate exhaustion, address cynicism and improve productivity, they do little as far as mollifying the underlying causes of burnout.

Back at work, you may still have to contend with the same unmanageable workload, conflicts or lack of resources. It is therefore important to take a look at your expectations with respect to work:

Which aspects of work can be changed? It helps to ask yourself what tasks can be delegated to free up energy for other meaningful tasks. Perhaps some aspects of your work could be changed to allow you regain some level of control over your workday.

And if it is cynicism, look into ways of sheltering yourself from parts of the workplace that antagonise or frustrate you and instead re-engage with those aspects of the job that are most meaningful.

It also greatly helps if you can find supportive relationships and networks that can help counteract those that drain you.

  1. Eliminate or reduce exposure to stressors

Reduction of job stressors requires you to recognize those particular activities and relationships that trigger unhealthy stress. This might require a reset of expectations from colleagues, clients and even family members regarding what and how much you are willing to take on as well as the ground rules for walking together.

You may, of course, experience resistance as you go about this; the most important thing, however, is to assure yourself that the changes you’re making will improve your long-term productivity as well as protecting your wellbeing.

  1. Invest in connectivity

It has been found that one of the most effective remedies for burnout, especially when its driven by cynicism and inefficacy, are finding and making rewarding interpersonal connections and seeking professional growth. Reaching out to and engaging in coaching and with suitable mentors that can help identify opportunities for growth can be highly rewarding.

Another issue is finding opportunities to volunteer in your community or to help others in similar situations can be a very powerful way to break out of a negative cycle of cynicism and lack of motivation.

Finally, given the role of the situational dimension to burnout, chances are that others in your organisation have burnout, too. So finding and identifying with others in a similar predicament will help identify organisation-wide problems and lasting ways to address them.

  1. Nip burnout in the bud

Getting aware of the problem is the first step to addressing burnout. However, this is often the most difficult simply because we tend not to accept ‘weakness’ or reassess aspects of our behaviour.

If you hear family or colleagues express any concerns about your work, its important to take heed. Granted, accepting that you are heading into a crisis will be hard to take, however, and at the end of the day, your wellbeing is what counts.

  1. Get support

It is crucial to find someone who is willing to challenge your assumptions and give you a different take on things. This may be a trusty friend, a coach, family member or therapist. This is because burnout has the potential to cloud your thinking and decision making. Hence, if you can be helped with finding and mapping out work-life boundaries, it will be easier to to find that happy medium.

  1. Take time to recharge even if you love your job very much

It’s common to get exhausted from time to time, particularly on those occasions when the job is all consuming. This is not full burnout. Still, it is important not to let things slip, so here are some quick ways to recharge:

Take breaks during the day. In order to perform at your best consistently, you need to find opportunities to restock your mental energy. Taking regular breaks allows to step away and clear your headspace.

Put away digital devices for a moment. Today, we find ourselves carrying our offices wherever we go with no downtime at all. It is a good practice to place your work phone away when you arrive home so that you’re not tempted to check work emails during out of office hours.

Take weekend breaks. Short breaks have been shown to help reduce stress, aid with maintain peak performance while also reducing the need for long lay-offs. Make sure that while you’re away, you completely switch off from work.

How to recover if you already have burnout

The first step to take in order to recover from burnout is to regain your perception of control of your situation first. During the state of burnout, people often feel as if their circumstances are out of their grasp, a few others may even feel the rest of the world is working against their interests. This mentality creates a virtuous cycle and block them from dealing with their circumstances.

But what is resilience? Simply it is an individual’s ability to positively respond to stress, pressure, risk and adversity.

To fully appreciate resilience, we need to borrow from the British Army’s highly acclaimed mental resilience programme for its soldiers. This programme recognises soldiers do not only need physical strength but also mental toughness if they are to effectively face the many challenges of their careers. It comprises the following principles:

SELF-BELIEF – confidence in your own abilities and judgement

POSITIVE AFFECT – the ability to interact with life in a positive way

EMOTIONAL CONTROL – the ability to understand and express your emotions

MENTAL CONTROL – the ability to control thinking, attention, concentration, focus, self-awareness, reflexivity, problem-solving

SENSE OF PURPOSE – the motivation that drives you forward

COPING – adaptability, natural coping strategies you have learnt through coping in previous stressful situation

SOCIAL SUPPORT – the social network you have and the ways you use it.

Here are some of the things you can do to build mental toughness:

1. Develop a positive mindset

To increase your resilience, the first thing that one has to do is refocus on building a strong, positive mindset in everyday life.

2. Know your why

Another aspect of building resilience is constantly being aware of your “why” when it comes to your short and long-term goals. If you’re going to achieve a big goal knowing why you need to do it in the first place cushions you against discouragements and disengagements as soon as you experience your first setback.

3. Find strength in others

Developing resilience is much about your inner fortitude as much as embracing the idea that you’re not in it alone. Even the most successful people among us rely and count on others for support, mentorship, guidance and encouragement when times are difficult. So you should have the confidence to do the same.

4. Learn to pick yourself up

Finally, it is worth remembering that building resilience isn’t easy! Anyone who’s ever achieved massive success knows that obstacles, setbacks, and failure are inevitable, and you’re no different.

As you work on your goals, you’re going to face many ups and downs, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t have mental toughness, willpower, or discipline.

In summary, you can build resilience through learning to recognize negative tendencies and taking action to correct them early on with healthy habits. Developing resilience is not about eliminating weakness, but learning how to deal with it and overcome it.

Final Thoughts on Burnout

The never-ending pressures to deliver new knowledge and products and be on top of things have undesirable consequences for scientists’ wellbeing. Burnout, the term that is sometimes used for all sorts of work-related stresses, is, in realty a serious red-flag that things are not going well. Unmanaged, chronic burnout leads to low productivity, negative emotions and mental ill-health. Recognising burnout early and taking steps to deal with its causes is important. But equally, all stakeholders, from line managers, to the boardroom, need to understand and recognise burnout and institute processes to address it so that workplaces are supportive and more productive.

  • Diane Wood. Corporate burnout affecting the mental health of 20% of top performers in uk businesses. Personnel today, may 3, 2017.
  • Christina Maslach and Susan E Jackson. The Measurement of Experienced Burnout. Journal of Occupational Behaviour 2 (1981): 99-113.

How low-income countries can make generic Covid-19 vaccines

Vinod Kumar Guest Writers

Amid calls for developed nations to do more, US President Joe Biden recently announced that his administration will be availing 500 million doses of the BioNTech-Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to 92 developing nations. The announcement was much welcome news, coming at a time when many low income countries are in a grip of rising coronavirus infections.

Low income countries are especially vulnerable to the pandemic due to, among other factors, their underdeveloped health systems and lack of local vaccine manufacturing capacity. If you consider that as of June 2021, of the 2 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses administered, only 0.3% has reached low-income countries, principally in Africa, where vaccination rates are as low as 1%. At this rate, it will take several years to achieve vaccine coverage that’s similar to that of wealthier countries.

So as much as Biden’s announcement is much welcomed, plenty of people are calling for a more sustainable solution. An official as COVAX, a UN scheme distributing jabs to poor countries, was recently quoted in the main press questioning whether the US pledge will have any impact at all. What is needed is expansion of vaccine manufacturing capabilities regionally, in Africa, Asia and Latin America, to produce generic vaccines quickly to avert needless deaths.

Problem is vaccine manufacturing is complex, and may not necessarily be cost-effective. It requires huge resources, expertise and time. In Africa, for instance, only Senegal is WHO prequalified to make vaccines. So for most of the continent, the option to repurpose existing facilities for local production does not exist.

The question on many peoples’ minds then is, what option do low income countries have? Is local vaccine manufacturing viable? Admittedly, this is vast topic and my is to provide an overview rather than a deep dive analysis.


What it takes to manufacture vaccines

In short, a lot! First, here are the headline figures: estimates very but generally between US$ 200 M to 700 M to develop a vaccine from concept to market, and another USUS$D 50 M – 130 M to construct, equip and commission the manufacturing facility. Development time and facility construction take at least 3 years, plus a further 1 year lead time to get the vaccine to market after commissioning.

Conceptual vaccine development process (adapted from multiple sources, including Robinson, 2016)


Money aside and perhaps most important, many things must perfectly align. Robust and well defined methods and processes have to be developed, testing and monitoring regimes established, and above all, a company-wide commitment to comply with internal and external standards and regulations established. It is why vaccinologists say “the vaccine is the process” referring to the sum total of different steps that define success or failure.

So while not impossible (COVID-19 has taught us what science can achieve), it is no small feat, particularly for a country with no prior manufacturing experience.


Basics of vaccine manufacture

There is currently no standard vaccine manufacturing process. Processes differ by vaccine platform and at times, from manufacturer to manufacturer. However, for most vaccines, the process involves some sort of cell culture/fermentation, isolation and purification of active substances, formulation, fill-and-finish, and packaging. The entire process, from start to finish can take anywhere between 7 days to several months.

If we take a biological-based vaccine, we can categorise the different manufacturing processes into three main steps: in the first step (upstream), the cell culture is developed, standardised and induced to produce the active substance (e.g protein or virus). In the second step (downstream), the cell culture is harvested, purified and filtered to produce the pure active substance. In the last step (fill-and-finish), the active is formulated (excipients and stabilisers added) into a vaccine, filled into vials, inspected and packaged ready to ship to the clinic.

The process for the manufacture of mRNA vaccines is less complex because it is mainly synthetic. It starts with a plasmid DNA for the mRNA being produced via fermentation. Using an enzyme-catalysed in-vitro transcription process, the mRNA that codes for the spike protein is produced. The new mRNA is chemically modified (capping and stabilisation) to render it biologically active. It is purified and then formulated into lipid nanoparticles in a microfluidic process. Once formulated, it undergoes fill and finish, quality control and packaging in the same way as other vaccines.


What potential obstacles would a new manufacturer face?

Vaccines are not created equal, but you knew that already. The range and relative production complexity of several vaccine types is shown below. At one end is the live attenuated oral polio vaccine with significantly lower complexity and production costs while at the other end is the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine.

Vaccine types and comparative production complexity


Notwithstanding, there are common equipment or equipment types shared across platforms such as bio reactors, filtration and purification, filling and lyophilisation equipment, although the sequence of operations and the specific cycles for each product may vary. In most cases, each product has its own dedicated facility requirements as well as skillset.

Here below are some of the most important considerations:

1. Process development and maintenance

Introducing new or changes to facilities, manufacturing equipment, processes or raw materials triggers regulatory examination to confirm that processes are robust enough to ensure the vaccine is equivalent to the product produced in the original clinical or reference batches. Erecting a new facility and the accompanying processes will be a significant undertaking because the facility and processes define the product, but also all stakeholders have to have visibility into how the manufacturing process, quality control, specifications as well as all the support utilities will pan out at commercial scale quite early one.


2. Raw materials and consumables

Many of the raw materials and consumables used in vaccine manufacture are highly specialized in nature, with a few being produced by biological production methods. For these reasons, there are only so many suppliers available and the supply situation is subject to shortages or long lead times, not helped that we are currently in the middle of a pandemic and pressure on supplies is heightened. When materials are in short supply they tend to be expensive due to usual supply and demand dynamics. One option is to qualify multiple suppliers especially for critical materials, but this means extra work auditing suppliers and qualifying materials, which likely increases costs of goods.


3. Regulatory affairs and commercialization

Vaccine regulatory requirements and steps for obtaining marketing approval are well documented. They are also broadly similar across the world although the exact compliance requirements differ from country to country. Also, some vaccine products may be made only for specific countries based on their requirements, and for these, regulatory agencies may have their own flexibilities built into review and inspection regimes.

Whatever the local arrangements, manufacturers are expected to comply with all requirements applicable for the relevant regulatory agencies (including those the company wishes to sell its vaccine). These requirements include adherence to good manufacturing practices as well as routine monitoring of adverse event data, and annual reporting of specific manufacturing information (e.g., data trends, change management, stability review, CAPA, etc).

In addition, a manufacturing facility will be routinely subjected to external audits and inspections to assess compliance with GMP, facility maintenance, manufacturing and quality systems, and performance of the process. For the uninitiated, this is a lot to take.

If the new company wishes to sell their vaccine to highly lucrative WHO and UNICEF projects (essential for long-term business sustainability), then compliance with WHO’s Pre-Qualification (PQ) is mandatory. A PQ assessment process can take up to a year to complete excluding any additional required to respond to queries.

But even before a vaccine can be considered for PQ, the sponsoring regulatory agency must be first qualified as “functional” by WHO. WHO’s standards for “functionality” are immense and currently, there are only two African states with an national regulatory agency adjudged as “functional” for vaccines sponsoring purposes.


Manufacturing costs

The costs of manufacturing a vaccine are influenced by several factors. Here, I will focus on facilities, equipment, raw materials, process development and labour but clinical development and financing costs. Facilities and maintenance, raw materials, production, personnel and compliance comprise direct costs, while indirect costs include the creation and implementation of quality systems, operations planning, inventory and distribution, and sales, marketing and management. In the table below, we list some of the important costs and how they could be reduced.


Major vaccine production cost drivers and ways to reduce them


Major Cost Driver Impact on overall costs Cost range Examples of ways production costs can be lowered
Product Development

R & D facilities

R & D staff

Research costs


(High fixed costs)

>500 M US$ Copy originator process where possible

Perform technology transfer

Use immunological surrogates in lieu of efficacy studies

Purchase antigens and execute form/fill prior to full end-to-end manufacturing

Facilities and Equipment





Ongoing maintenance costs


(high fixed costs)

50 to 130M US$ Design for very high facility utilization

Repurpose existing facilities

Use multi-dose vials

Use single-use disposable systems

Consider blow-fill-seal technology

Use closed systems to reduce classified production space

Direct Labour

Wages & benefits

Low Comparatively lower in developing counties (typically 25 – 50%) Increase single-use production technologies

Develop capacity progressively


Management, quality systems, IT systems

High Up to 50% cost of raw materials and labour Streamlined quality systems.

Management with broad expertise

Licensing/Regulatory and commercialization High 100k to 1M US$

For staff and consulting costs, WHO PQ, Site audits & evaluation fees

Pursue WHO PQ only if needed

Request royalty reductions or waivers

Accelerate approval by seeking NRA or WHO priority review for emergency use


Facilities and equipment maintenance

Constructing and maintaining a vaccine manufacturing facility is a major cost for a vaccine manufacturer. A green-field, purpose-built vaccine manufacturing facility in North America can easily cost 50 – 750 M US$ per antigen, depending on the complexity of design, automation, segregation, utilities, and contamination controls. Based on current rates, GMP space cost from 6k US$/m2; while non-GMP space costs 3k US$/m2. The cost of clean rooms and containment rooms is higher. It can take up to 7 years to design, build, validate, and commission a manufacturing facility. These estimates are for developed countries, so actual facilities cost may be lower in developing countries, although not by much since many materials and fixtures need to be imported and some key personnel hired from other countries as expatriates.


Process development

The focus here is on the steps used to develop and validate the manufacturing process leading to a licensed product. The key steps for process and analytical development and associated time frames during clinical development are outlined in the table below.


Key vaccine development stages and process/system expectations


Phase Goal Remark
Exploratory & Pre-clinical Immunogenicity & safety assessment of target antigen or cell in cell culture or animal disease model Small scale. Attention paid to method of manufacturing as it impacts nature of vaccine. Process development not critical at this stage
Clinical Trial Authorization Application Obtain approval to conduct human clinical studies An outline critical manufacturing and analytical methods for producing vaccine required. Also, quality, purity and stability required to be demonstrated
Phase I Vaccine Trials Safety assessment of candidate vaccine. Type and extent of immune response elicited GMP manufacture of all clinical trial material. Process development ideally optimised by this stage although this can be deferred
Phase 2 Vaccine Trials Assessment of safety, immunogenicity, dose response, schedule of immunizations All major process changes completed and qualified. Anticipated cost of goods determined
Phase 3 Vaccine Trials Assessment of candidate in target population for safety & adverse events. Efficacy is estimated. manufacturing consistency confirmed Processes finalized and validated. Analytical tests for release are completed and validated. Costs of goods are confirmed as any changes need to be re-validated and may require additional clinical testing
Approval & Licensure Biological Product Application approval Completed full review and details of manufacturing methods and analytical methods; shelf-life stability studies; process validation, facility validation, release testing validation; launch lots prepared and released. Regulatory agency inspection of all manufacturing and release facilities and manufacturing and quality systems documentation


Costs of process and analytical development, manufacturing, and documentation are highly dependent on vaccine type, technical complexity, disease target and regulatory body. Some independent analysists have calculated that the Chemistry, Manufacturing and Controls (CMC) development aspects for a vaccine range from 5 M US$ to 50 M US$ and require between 50 and 100 person-years in human resources. If a manufacturer from a developing country chooses to licence technology or partner with an established manufacturer, this can reduce costs and development time significantly.


Labour costs

Having a motivated, technically competent and committed workforce is a major requirement for any vaccine manufacturer, irrespective of where there are domiciled. Companies also need to be able to hire, train, and develop their workforce, a challenge even for highly experienced manufacturers.

For many reasons we don’t have time and space to go into, there is a shortage of personnel with the requisite skills and expertise needed by the vaccine industry. The deep scientific knowledge required to support such an endeavour takes years to acquire, so developing countries are at a disadvantage when it comes to establishing and sustaining local vaccine manufacturing capacity.

Countries such as China and India have large populations to draw from, not mentioning the huge financial resources, which have enabled them to build relatively sound technical and scientific foundations within a single generation. It is not an accident that these countries have also successfully managed to enter into vaccine manufacturing. Other developing countries are not as well endowed, so developing a knowledge base in tandem with a comprehensive training system within a short period of time is not as easy.

Finally, staffing for an average facility in low-income country will often include local and several expatriate employees in order to entrench and safeguard the relevant technical skills. Expatriate staff, by their nature, require higher total compensation, which increases overall labour costs.


What options are available to developing countries?

The good thing is that the pace of technology and innovation now mean that production costs need not be a showstopper even for smaller, resource-poor countries. With small-scale, modular or disposable technologies, high-density bioreactors, and innovations in fill-and-finish processing it is possible for new entrants to successfully venture into vaccine manufacturing.

For low income countries, the proven route is starting with fill and finish capacity, and then through a phased approach, step up the value chain to manufacture antigens as well. This approach allows reduction of upfront investment risk while building manufacturing know-how in a controllable way.

As we mentioned earlier, not all vaccines are created equal. This also applies to building vaccine capacity. Biological-based production technologies (such as those for recombinant-protein or viral-vector vaccines) have higher capital and operational costs compared with novel mRNA-based vaccines, which can be easily and quickly synthesized in a chemical reactor. Further, mRNA-based processes will soon become even more accessible through mobile “RNA printers” that are promised to further reduce footprint, labour and cost commitments.

To negate the high up-front costs of purpose-built facilities, we recommend using modular and prefabricated facilities, which constructed off-site and delivered to the site where they will be put into use manufacturing. Prefabs have been used for many years in small molecule pharmaceuticals and offer benefits of fast delivery and capacity flexibility. They are now available for vaccine manufacturing, with delivery times of three to six months instead of 5 – 7 years.

An example of prefab solution is the one Exyte and Univercells Technologies have co-developed and is available for vaccines. Known as NevoLine, this system uses continuous/semi-continuous process equipment with automation, and a small manufacturing footprint which can be housed inside the ExyCell cleanroom. The facilities can be commissioned fairly quickly, typically within 3 months.

Finally, it is no secret that labour productivity is a major limitation in low income countries, but more so in many African countries. For these countries, productivity can be boosted through pool human resources and technology transfer from across the value chain – including from equipment and raw material vendors, to universities and NGOs. For instance, organisations such as WHO and PATH have platform which provide working pilot plant production processes (including all the SOPs, documentation and training), allowing new entrants to establish a robust production system fairly quickly while managing to reduce development costs and improve productivity.

So there we have it. Vaccine manufacturing is a capital-intensive endeavour. Short and long-run product costs are primarily driven by development and production-related costs, with facility maintenance, compliance with regulations, raw materials and labour being the most significant contributors. Countries seeking to localize vaccine supply need to invest heavily in facilities, equipment, skilled labour and ongoing quality management with a long time-horizon.

But investment in facilities, equipment and skilled labour is not enough. Having sound scientific knowhow is critical to vaccine production, so the issue of methodical transfer of knowhow, the possession of which provides the basis for long-term viability of the venture, becomes especially important. In this sense, technology transfer is one of the main ways ventures in low income countries can possibly acquire vaccine manufacturing capacity.



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The Future of Science Events Post-COVID?

Excipients and Formulation Approaches Employed in Leading Covid-19 Vaccines

In this article, I compare excipients and formulation methods used in the four Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna, Astra Zeneca and Janssen-Cilag (Johnson & Johnson), that have obtained emergency approval by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and its European counterpart, the European Medicines Agency, EMA.


SARS Covid-19 has put vaccines into the public limelight again. Now more than before, we are all aware of the need for and challenges of timely distribution, as well as the importance of the cold chain. What is perhaps not clear to most people is that these challenges are heavily influenced by a vaccine’s inactive ingredients (excipients, solvents & adjuvants) as well as the platform.

In addition to stability, a vaccine’s formulation and excipients impact the economics of manufacture and the finished product’s presentation. It is the same way an engineer at Ferrari or Aston Martin designs an impressive V8 powertrain but finds that he or she still needs an equally impressive chassis for the new engine to deliver the performance.

This is why an understanding of how vaccines are formulated and the reasons behind choice of different excipients, from a pharmaceutical technology perspective, is equally important to appreciating differences in manufacturing, storage and distribution requirements.

First, I will briefly provide an outline of the vaccine platforms currently in use as this is important to formulation and excipients selection.

Vaccine Platforms

There are any number of ways to categorise vaccines. One method I like to use is classify them by the technology or platform used. Using this approach, we can distinguish four main platforms:

Whole pathogen vaccines

This is the oldest and most well-known method of vaccine development. It involves using an entire disease-causing organism in the vaccine to elicit the immune response, analogous to that obtained in regular infection. Whole pathogen vaccines are further divided into live attenuated and inactivated vaccines.

In live attenuated vaccines the disease-causing organism is weakened (attenuated) to curtail its disease-causing ability although it’s still able to replicate and trigger an immune response. An example is the Oral Polio Vaccine.

Inactivated vaccines have the genetic material destroyed – this way they are not able to replicate and infect cells, but are still able to trigger an immune response. Since inactivated vaccines do not always create a strong immune response as live attenuated vaccines, adjuvants (for example, aluminium hydroxide and aluminium phosphate are included in the formulation. An example is the Hepatitis A vaccine.

Subunit vaccines

These vaccines typically contain one or more immunogens from the surface of the pathogen. Antigens are usually produced through recombinant technologies. Subunit vaccines can be further divided into recombinant protein vaccines; toxoid vaccines, conjugate vaccines, virus-like particles and outer membrane vaccines.

The vast majority of vaccines in use today are subunit vaccines – they do not contain any whole bacteria or viruses and instead contain polysaccharides or proteins or their combination from the surface of bacteria or viruses, which are recognised by the immune system.

Agencies such as the World Health Organisation and the CDC, attest to the excellent safety profiles of subunit vaccines. Their only ‘downside’ is that they often require inclusion of adjuvants. Examples of subunit vaccines include

Nucleic acid vaccines

Nucleic acid vaccines work by providing genetic codes for host cells to produce antigens, which then stimulate the immune response. Nucleic acid vaccines can be further divided into RNA and DNA vaccines.

RNA vaccines use mRNA which is formulated in a lipid nanoparticle for protection and fusion with the cell membrane. A drawback of RNA vaccines is their inherent instability.

DNA, being more stable than mRNA, doesn’t require the same initial protection. DNA vaccines are typically administered using electroporation to allow cells to take up the DNA. There are currently no licenced DNA vaccines, however there are several in different stages of development.

Viral vectored vaccines

Viral vectored vaccines utilise harmless viruses to deliver the genetic code of target vaccine antigens to cells of the body, so that they can produce protein antigens to stimulate an immune response. Viral vectored vaccines can be developed quickly and on a large scale. They are also significantly cheaper to produce compared to nucleic acid or subunit vaccines.

Viral vectored vaccines can be further classified into replicating and non-replicating. In the former, viral vectors retain the ability to make new viral particles alongside delivering the vaccine antigen when used as a vaccine delivery platform. Non-replicating, as the name suggests, do not retain the ability to make new viral particles because some of the viral genes required for viral replication have been removed.

Differences by Vaccine Platform

The Pfizer BioNtech and Moderna vaccines are nucleic acid vaccines. Both the Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine (BNT162b COVID-19 mRNA vaccine) and the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine (mRNA-12743 COVID-19 vaccine) are single stranded, 5’ capped messenger RNA produced by cell-free in vitro transcription from corresponding DNA templates that encode for SARS-Cov-2 spike protein.

Although mRNA vaccines are a relatively new technology (approx. 30 years old, compared to whole organism vaccines that were first introduced during the late 1700s), they are well studied. They also offer many advantages:

  1. Firstly, no live components are involved, so there is no risk of the vaccine triggering disease.
  2. The mRNA, due to its transient nature, also presents zero risk of becoming integrated with our own genetic material.
  3. Moreover, the immune response involves both B and T cells.
  4. Finally, and perhaps more importantly, they are relatively easy to manufacture.

The major downsides of mRNA vaccines are that they often require ultra-cold storage, and almost always require booster shots for maximum effectiveness. We will touch on this later in the article.

By comparison, the Jansen-Cilag and AstraZeneca vaccines are viral vectored vaccines, so they use a different approach to instruct human cells to make the SARS-2 spike protein. The Jansen-Cilag Covid-19 vaccine (COVID-19 vaccine (Ad26,COV2-S [recombinant])) uses a non-replicating adenovirus (a Novel Adenovirus Type 26) from their AdVac technology and grown in PER.C6 cell line.

The AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine (COVID-19 (ChAdOx1-S [recombinant]) also uses a non-replicating adenovirus, this one being a chimpanzee adenovirus (as opposed to Ad26, which is human adenovirus) known as Oxford1 (or ChAdOx1).

A schematic illustration of an adenovirus vector vaccine is shown below:

Fig. 1: Schematic illustration of an adenovirus vector vaccine

Fig. 1: Schematic illustration of an adenovirus vector vaccine

The adenoviruses used in these vaccines are engineered to only carry the genetic code for the SARS-2 spike protein. Upon entering human cells, they use that code to make spike proteins. These vaccines mimic natural infections, which is advantageous in triggering strong cellular immune responses as well the production of antibodies by B cells.

The technology is well-established, with two other vaccines already approved (Ebola & Zika vaccines). However, adenovirus vaccines are relatively complex to manufacture, and with time, their effectiveness reduces.

How Covid-19 Vaccines Differ in Formulation and Excipients Used

Pfizer BioNtech and Moderna Vaccines

The Pfizer BioNtech and Moderna vaccines are available as sterile, multi-dose colloidal dispersions for intramuscular injection. The mRNA in both vaccines is encapsulated in lipid nanoparticles (LNPs). LNPs are chosen to overcome the inherent hydrolytic instability, poor membrane permeability, and the abundance of RNAses in the body.

Lipid nanoparticles (sometimes called solid lipid nanoparticles, SLNs) are colloidal carriers made from lipids. As a drug delivery technology, LNPs emerged in the early 1990s as an alternative to traditional emulsions and liposomes. Although their exact structure is still under debate, LNPs are generally thought to consist of a solid lipid core (unlike liposomes which have an aqueous core) and an external phospholipid layer (membrane). A schematic illustration of an LNP is shown in figure 2. You can also watch an excellent YouTube on LNPs through this link.

Fig. 2: Schematic illustration of an lipid nanoparticle vaccineFig. 2: Schematic illustration of an lipid nanoparticle vaccine

For the Pfizer BioNtech and Moderna vaccines, LNPs are obtained by admixing mRNA, various lipids, which include a neutral phospholipid, cholesterol, a polyethylene-glycol (PEG)-lipid, and an ionizable cationic lipid (which has amine groups (at low pH) and facilitates interaction with the anionic mRNA during particle formation and also membrane fusion during internalization). The PEG-lipid controls particle size and acts as a steric barrier, preventing aggregation during storage. When complexed with the mRNA, the LNPs-mRNA particles have sizes in the range of 60–100 nm.

Table 1 below summarises the main differences in Pfizer BioNtech and Moderna vaccines’ formulation and excipients:

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine Moderna vaccine
Name of product Comirnaty mRNA-1273
Active BNT162b2 (single-stranded, 5’ capped mRNA) mRNA 1273 (single-stranded, 5’ capped mRNA)
mRNA dose; route of administration 30 µg; intramuscular 100 µg; intramuscular
Delivery system Lipid nanoparticle made from

ALC-0315 or 4-hydroxybutyl) azanediyl)bis (hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate), ALC-0159 or 2-[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N ditetradecylacetamide; 1,2-Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (DSPC) and Cholesterol

Lipid nanoparticles made from

SM-102 (heptadecan-9-yl 8-((2-hydroxyethyl) (6-oxo-6-(undecyloxy) hexyl) amino) octanoate}; PEG2000-DMG = 1-monomethoxypolyethyleneglycol-2,3-dimyristylglycerol with polyethylene glycol of average molecular weight 2000; 1,2-Distearoyl-sn-glycero-3 phosphocholine (DSPC) and Cholesterol

Diluent Water for injection

Buffered by Potassium dihydrogen phosphate, Disodium hydrogen phosphate dihydrate

pH 7–8

Water for injection

Buffered by Tris (tromethamine)

pH 7–8

Other excipients Potassium chloride

Sodium chloride


Sodium acetate


Table 1: Formulation of Pfizer BioNtech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines

LNPs are particularly unstable thermodynamically. In addition, they are susceptible to chemical instability, which can arise from hydrolysis and oxidation of the lipids in the LNPs, as well as oxidation of unsaturated fatty acid groups. This makes LNPs systems especially susceptible to storage conditions, which helps explain, in part, to the stringent handling conditions required of mRNA vaccines.

Janssen-Cilag (Ad26. COV2.S) and AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria or AZD1222)

Janssen-Cilag (Ad26. COV2.S) and AstraZeneca (Vaxzevria) vaccines are available as sterile, multi-dose aqueous suspensions for intramuscular administration. Liquid suspensions are an efficient and the go-to format for viral vector gene delivery systems. However, the challenge faced by formulators is ensuring long term stability since, unlike conventional pharmaceutical products, they are complex biological structures susceptible to chemical and physical stressors, such as changes in solution pH, ionic strength, redox potential and surface activity.

Thus, the aim of formulation efforts here is to prevent conditions likely to trigger degradation pathways, such as denaturation of the capsid protein and nucleotides, aggregation, hydrolysis and precipitation and adsorption of the vaccine onto the container walls. This mandates the use of buffers as well as functional excipients and other materials in the formulation, such tonicity agents and stabilisers, non-ionic surfactants to prevent adsorption to glass surfaces and cryoprotectants (sucrose, ethanol or cyclodextrins), free-radical oxidation inhibitors and metal chelators (edetate).

Table 2 below summarises the main differences between Janssen-Cilag and AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines’ formulation and excipients:

AstraZeneca vaccine Jansen-Cilag vaccine
Name product Vaxzevria (formerly AZD1222) COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen
Active ChAdOx1-S [Recombinant] Ad26. Cov2.S [Recombinant]
Dose & route of administration 0.5 ml; intramuscular

(containing ³ 2.5×108 Inf. Units)

0.5ml ml; intramuscular

(containing ³ 8.3×108 Inf. Units)

Delivery system Replication-deficient, non-encapsulated Chimpanzee adenovirus ChAdx1-S encoding SARS-COV-2 spike (S) glycoprotein


Each virion is 80-100nm and contains a single copy of double-stranded DNA

Replication-deficient, non-encapsulated adenovirus type 26 (Ad26) encoding SARS-COV-2 spike (S) glycoprotein


Each virion is 80-100nm and contains a single copy of double-stranded DNA

Diluent Water for injections Water for injections
Buffer system L-histidine, L-histidine hydrocholoride monohydrate

pH = 6.6

Citric acid monohydrate, Trisodium citrate dihydrate

pH = 6.0-6.4

Other excipients Magnesium chloride hexahydrate

Polysorbate 80



Sodium chloride



Polysorbate 80

2-hydroxyl propyl β-cyclodextrin


Sodium chloride

Sodium hydroxide

Table 2. Formulation and Excipients used in Janssen-Cilag (Ad26. COV2.S) and AstraZeneca (AZD1222) COVID-19 vaccines

Differences in Storage Requirements

All vaccines (with the exception of a select few) require high quality and robust cold chains to guarantee stability and viability. These conditions are not arbitrary – they are arrived at from extensive stability studies and conditions where the viability of the products is monitored.

As hinted to previously, the mRNA vaccines are especially vulnerable to handling conditions, hence their requirements are particularly elaborate compared with adenovirus vaccines.

Of the two mRNA vaccines, Pfizer’s is the more challenging to handle, requiring shipping and storage in ultra-cold freezers. I was not able to find any studies on storage stability in the public domain on mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, however Onpattro® , a marketed LNP product has a shelf-life of 36 months when stored between 2° and 8 °C. It is possible that in future, these conditions will be updated as more storage stability data emerge.

A summary of the key requirements for the different vaccines is below:

Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine

  • 6 months maximum shelf life when stored in a freezer at -80°C to -60°C
  • 31 days maximum shelf life at 2-8°C after thaw
  • May be stored between 2 to 25°C for 2 hours prior to dilution after removal from the fridge
  • Once diluted may be stored between 2 to 25°C for a further 6 hours
  • Protect from room light and direct sunlight or UV light

Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine

  • 7 months maximum shelf life when stored in a freezer at -25°C to -15°C
  • 30 days maximum shelf life at 2 to 8°C after thaw
  • May be stored between 8 to 25°C for up 12 hours prior to dilution after removal from the fridge
  • Once punctured, the vial must be used within 6 hours
  • Protect from room light and direct sunlight or UV light

AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine

  • 6 months maximum shelf life when is stored in a refrigerator between 2 to 8°C
  • 6 hours maximum shelf life when stored between 2 to 25°C.
  • Once punctured, the vial must be used within 6 hours
  • Must not be frozen
  • Protect from room light and direct sunlight or UV light

Vaccine Janssen-Cilag COVID-19

  • 24 months maximum shelf life when is stored in a freezer between -25 and -15 °C
  • 3 months maximum shelf life when stored between 2 to 8 °C after removal from freezer.
  • Once punctured, the vial must be used within 6 hours
  • Must not be frozen
  • Protect from room light and direct sunlight or UV light

So there you have it. A summary of platforms for Covid-19 vaccines, the formulations and excipients used, and how these influence handling, storage and distribution requirements of Pfizer BioNTech, Moderna, Astra Zeneca and Janssen-Cilag (Johnson & Johnson)’s vaccines.



  1. Schoenmaker, D. Witzigmann, J.A. Kulkarni, R. Verbeke, G. Kersten, W. Jiskoot, D.J.A. Crommelin, mRNA-lipid nanoparticle COVID-19 vaccines: Structure and stability, International Journal of Pharmaceutics, 601 (2021) 120586.
  2. S. Rosa, D.M.F. Prazeres, A.M. Azevedo, M.P.C. Marques, mRNA vaccines manufacturing: Challenges and bottlenecks, Vaccine, 39 (2021) 2190-2200.
  3. D’Amico, F. Fontana, R. Cheng, H.A. Santos, Development of vaccine formulations: past, present, and future, Drug Delivery and Translational Research, 11 (2021) 353-372.
  4. Mäder, K. Solid lipid nanoparticles, Handbook of Materials for Nanomedicine, Jenny Stanford Publishing 2020, pp. 173-206.
  5. Tatsis, N., Ertl, H.C., Adenoviruses as vaccine vectors, Molecular Therapy, 10 (2004) 616-629.


The importance of sustainability to the pharmaceutical industry

Earlier this year, Corporate Knights, a Toronto-based sustainability performance research and media company, released their Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations rankings. The annual ranking is based on an assessment of more than 8 000 large global companies with revenues > US$ 1 billion. You can obtain more information via this link.

As one would have expected, renewable energy companies dominate, with Ørsted and Schneider Electric, bagging second and first spots this year. Pharmaceutical companies feature on the list, albeit at number 16 (Eisai), 65 (Sanofi), 71 (Takeda), 82 (AstraZeneca) and at 98 (Novo Nordisk).

The fact that pharmaceutical companies feature at all is something to welcome but at the same time the fact that so few pharmaceutical companies feature in the top 100 is disappointing.

Given how processes for the development, production, distribution and disposal of drug products use huge amount of natural, human and economic resources, a lack of interest in sustainability is potentially problematic and only helps further dents the sector’s image as well as its future sustainability.

With society increasingly placing high expectations on corporate entities, it is no longer enough to simply have good intentions, actions must follow words.

But first, what is sustainability?

Sustainability is one of those things that carry different meanings to different people. Sustainability experts say it is simply a business strategy that takes into account an organisation’s operations and their social, ecological and economic impact.

The consensus today is that sustainability is actually good business; a focus on sustainability boosts an organization’s top and bottom lines. This is why a recent survey of top executives at Fortune 500 firms revealed that they now consider sustainability a necessity for competitiveness and future survival.

Examining sustainability literature reveals three main pillars: the environmental, the social and, the economic— this is what is also referred to as profits, planet, and people. The idea here is that by actively addressing environmental and social issues companies can contribute to the society’s sustainability while also achieving their own long-term value (profitability, return on capital, etc).

The environmental pillar is what the majority of us are familiar with, thanks in part to Greta Thunberg . It is concerned with the reduction of carbon footprint, water usage, non-decomposable packaging, and wasteful processes, as part of a supply chain. Cleaning up these processes has been shown to be cost-effective, and financially beneficial while also positively impacting the environment at large.

The social pillar is about treating employees and the communities within which the business operates fairly and responsibly. Some of the important aims here include compassion and provision of responsive benefits, such as better maternity and paternity benefits, flexible working, staff development opportunities, etc.

And, finally, the economic pillar is about running businesses in an economically sustainable way; to be profitable and produce enough revenues long-term. It is not about making money at any cost, rather companies should aim to generate profit in accordance with other elements of sustainability.

Embracing these three pillars, namely social, environmental and economic sustainability is what economists refer to as the Triple Bottom Line.

There is currently no official universal measurement of sustainability in existence, and instead, organisations have developed industry-specific tools and practices to judge how social, environmental and economic principles function as part of a company.


Some success stories in Pharmaceuticals sector

AstraZeneca, Eisai, Biogen, Glaxo and Novo Nordisk are pharmaceutical companies that have both worked toward energy efficiency, waste reduction, and other ecological measures. They have also focused on social impact via partner initiatives in the areas of health and safety.

Across the industry as a whole, there is a major shift in thinking, with many companies imposing targets or starting initiatives aimed at reducing the impact of their activities and products on the environment.

Many are exploring ways to produce their products more efficiently and in a sustainable way; such as implementing ‘green’ IT practices designed to lower energy consumption; plastic neutrality and water sustainability.


But there’s still a lot to do

As mentioned earlier, the development, production, distribution, use and disposal of drug products has a major impact on environment. For instance, drugs taken by humans and animals find their way into rivers, lakes and even drinking water, and can devastate both aquatic ecosystems.

Sustainability needs to be a priority for any business operating in the sector. And increasingly, people of all walks of life are demanding for it. Very soon, companies will be called to account for all their operations, from carbon footprint, harmful emissions, water usage, etcetera.

The expectation today is that resources should be used responsibly, and where possible, reused to suit the global increase in population.

How do we move from here?

Obviously, there is no “one right solution” on sustainability. The best solution depends on the ambitions and stakes at each company.

Sustainability experts recommend a few useful actions outlined below:

1] Strategic commitment to sustainability: Corporate and business strategies need to be aligned with sustainability.

2] Compliance: There has to be a commitment to comply both with the spirit and letter of the law as it relates to waste management, pollution and energy efficiency.

3] Proactiv response: Rather than wait for a crisis, companies need to develop sustainability strategies today.

5] Transparency: Transparency is pre-condition for measuring and improving sustainability practices. Therefore, companies need to openly communicate with all key stakeholders, openly and truthfully, acknowledging their failures as well as their successes.

To conclude, sustainability remains a major challenge, a challenge that no single company can address. Although the pharmaceutical sector has a lot to do, it is encouraging to see a number of companies embrace sustainability policies. Sustainability is a megatrend that won’t be going away anytime soon.

Reproducing taste with a Norimaki Synthesizer

A Meiji University scientist has invented a method for digitally reproducing taste and flavour in the same just as we do for sound.


In the pharmaceutical industry, taste masking of bitter products intended for oral administration is often undertaken during the product formulation stage. The effectiveness of taste-masking methods

Since flavour is a dynamic sense that is influenced by formulation ingredient, effective assessment of taste masking requires actual sensory analysis to be done on the drug product in its final formulation. If the drug product is potent or cytotoxic then sensory analysis may not be possible.

An alternative approach is the use of an electronic tongue – which relies on converting molecular information in a product to generate a signature that can be related to certain qualities of the product, for example, acidic, bitter, salty, etc. nevertheless, the electronic tongue has disadvantages, notably, the need for a huge amount of previous measurements for calibration.

Thanks to Dr. Homei Miyashita, a professor in the aptly named Department of Frontier Media Science, Meiji University, Japan, formulators of drug products will be soon be able to accurately taste and profile their formulations without needing to sniff or taste any product.

Dr. Miyashita interest in food and taste goes a long way back to when he was a child. He has undertaken research on technology and the human senses while at Meiji University, culminating in the Norimaki Synthesizer.

You can read more about Dr. Miyashita’s device through this link:

The Future of Science Events Post-COVID?

What’s the Future of Science Events Post-COVID?

It’s a cliché, I know, but COVID-19 has had an impact like nothing before on the events industry, and scientific conferences have not been spared. The arrival of the pandemic put brakes on all substantive meetings and conferences, and save for a few hybrid events here and there, it has not been the same since March 2021. Fifteen months on we are still some way before some semblance of normalcy returns when venues and public gatherings will be allowed to operate at full capacity.

Why Events Still Matter

A major activity in the life of a scientist, regardless of the role or sector, is the professional event, such as conference or meeting. Events provide an important space for practitioners to present their work, gain new skills, and acquire fresh ideas that can help further their research/careers.

Events are also important for brainstorming, networking and making vital connections with other scientists and suppliers and can lead to new initiatives, papers and funding. This is why scientific events matter.

From an economic viewpoint, events are a global force, contributing $1.2 trillion to the global economy through direct spend by delegates, attendees and organisers, as well as the millions of jobs supported, directly and indirectly.

The most popular scientific events, ranked by aggregated attendance, are seminars and corporate events, conferences and exhibitions, trade shows and fairs, and product launches. Interphex (mainly US-based), CPhI (Europe, US and Asia) and AAPS (US-based) represent the most prominent events and meetings annually on the pharmaceutical events calendar.

A Change to the Hybrid Model

With the pandemic raging, travel halted, budgets tightened and venues ordered to close, the events sector was forced to rethink and remodel their operations. Smart event organizers saw virtual events as an alternative, opening up opportunities that had never existed in the events industry before. Organisers had a lot of trial and testing to do in order to transition online. And people were excited by the idea of attending virtually as the “new normal”.

Virtual events offered a much needed break for organisers and permitted meetings to continue. As the situation improved, some organisers moved to hybrid events, which allowed some delegates to meet in person whilst also communicating with others virtually.

The hybrid innovation has allowed companies to continue to offer and run events much more frequently, and so far, this does not look like a temporary shift.

And although the number of physical attendees is restricted, hybridization allows extension of the event’s reach geographically, making it more cost effective and a more inclusive experience for both planners and attendees, a real positive. Moreover, as the content can be recorded it can be reused over and over again, increasing its life span.

Hybridisation represents a fundamental change in how events will work in the future, and hopefully, now means even greater engagement by companies and attendees.

The only problem, though, is that virtual events are cutting out most of the supply chain. Suddenly, venues are no longer in as high a demand as was before. Neither are caterers, furniture rentals, sound and lighting engineers, cleaners, and exhibition stand builders. All of these roles are being scaled back with the increasing resort to virtual events.

What Returns and What Changes?

There is no doubt that physical events will bounce back. Science is after all a social endeavour, and as scientists we thrive through physical interaction with other scientists and other humans. Getting back to normal, however, will take a while, and during this time, scientific meetings and events will more likely look very different. Expect more sophisticated virtual participation options, smaller satellite events complementing larger gatherings, and targeted events as people carefully weigh benefits and risks of attending events.

This year, and probably most of 2022, travel will likely remain complicated. But as more positive shoots of economic recovery emerge and bloom, the sector will bounce back strongly. Below is how events professionals predict the industry developing:

Annual general meetings and conferences

The annual general meeting and conference has been and will still remain the main platform for meeting, networking and exchange. Pre-pandemic, the annual meeting and conference typically attracted 500+ attendees, convening centrally, and interacting closely. But in the age of Covid-19, conferences do not sit well with social distancing requirements. This has made them nearly impossible to hold – both logistically, due to travel restrictions, and as a matter of public health.

When they return, the annual conference and meeting will likely look very different. You can expect shorter, more sophisticated events, with more virtual participation options, greater use of event technology, mobile apps and social media. We will likely see event split between the main event (50 to 100 attendees) and many more break-out, intimate sessions of anywhere between 10 – 15 attendees.

Satellite Events

With mass meetings being one of the proven vehicles of spreading COVID-19, it is understandable why people will be sceptical about attending live conferences soon. Therefore, smaller events with a manageable audience are the immediate future of the industry. You can expect to see smaller satellite events aimed at complementing larger gatherings. So if the main event is in London, you might have smaller hubs in Frankfurt, and Madrid.

Targeted Events

For a long time now, many organisations have been questioning the ROI on tradeshows and conferences. So while interest in targeted events, such as roadshows, trunk shows and townhall meetings, had been growing, we will see interest in these grow. The advantages of roadshows is that they can either be stand-alone events or a series of identical meetings taking place sequentially in multiple locations and allow companies to take their message out and meet targeted audiences face to face. Think of it as the event going to where the audience is rather than the audience coming to the event.

Event Technologies

Event technology is a term used to describe all of the digital tools, apps and software used in the events industry. Everything from check in & registration, to diagramming, to social media tools, and more can be considered event technology.

Acceptance of event technologies has been increasing over time and we now should expect event organisers and planners to increasingly leverage technology not only to manage COVID-19 risks but also to improve attendee experiences.


The pandemic has forced the event industry to adapt to various challenges at an unprecedented speed. This has even pushed event planners to innovate, as exemplified by increasing adoption of hybrid and virtual eventing.

Although virtual events bring the benefits of removing time and space constraints and increase participation, the need for social interaction cannot be dismissed.

Going forward, we can be sure to see changes in the way scientific events are delivered, including greater use of technologies, shorter, more intimate physical events and many other as yet to be implemented innovations.

The Future of Science Events Post-COVID?

Rogue antibodies wreak havoc in severe COVID-19 cases

The development of antibodies to the COVID-19 virus has been the great long-term hope of ending the pandemic. However, immune system turncoats are also major culprits in severe cases of COVID-19, Yale scientists report in the journal Nature.

These autoantibodies target and react with a person’s tissues or organs similar to ones that cause autoimmune diseases such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

The Power of Empathy: What Pharma Can Learn from the Tech Industry

An empathetic consideration of people’s lived experiences in new drug development is a key factor in availing products that improve patient outcomes while also reducing costs to society.

Enosh Mwesigwa PhD MBA

Pharmaceutical Industry Professional


The broad appeal and runaway success of the iPhone (and other products including the Fitbit Versa, Google Nest Learning thermostat, and Amazon’s Echo and Alexa devices) has been attributed to many factors, not least their elegant designs, library of applications and the genius of the engineers that created them. All these are valid points of view and I do not dispute them.

What is all the more interesting is that such personable products, such as the iPhone, Fitbit Versa and Nest Learning thermostat, should emerge out of tech. ‘Geeks’ after all are not your stereotypical touchy-feely types compared with, say, your regular healthcare professional.

Those who are interested in design will tell you that all the above-named devices were designed around the lived circumstances of customers. Engineers in tech call this pain points.

The iPhone is designed to address users’ pain points, mindful of the importance of simplifying users’ daily lives. It is not enough to solve a problem; the solution must also be easy to use, look and feel good, and provide a ‘good feeling’ while in use (not create new pain points).

Engineers put a lot of time studying pain points and mapping out the expectations of all their potential customers. Insights gained at this early stage feed directly into any solution they create.

Compare this with the pharmaceutical industry. Once a new drug substance has been identified and completed its clinical evaluation, product developers will embark on developing a dosage form – this is the embodiment of the drug substance that patients eventually use.

The choice of a dosage form is not necessarily guided by users circumstances in the way tech engineers do. Instead, it is the materials available, regulations and technology to fabricate the dosage form that guide selection.

Even in the build up to launching on the market, the drug product remains centre stage, with focus being placed on satisfying clinical needs, as defined by governments or physicians.

All along, end users (patients) remain a distant abstract. How their lived experiences fit in with the selected dosage form or route of administration or dosing frequency rarely feature in conversations.

If you are in doubt, consider this story:

Chester is a 3 year old boy. He was diagnosed with Minimal Change Nephrotic Syndrome just after his second birthday. His condition leads to leakage of protein into urine, which results into many health problems, such as low blood protein levels, high cholesterol levels, high triglyceride levels, and swelling. Nephrotic syndrome patients are also highly susceptible to infections. At various times, he has been prescribed a cocktail of medicines, including rituximab, prednisolone, tacrolimus, ramipril, amlodipine, hydrochlorothiazide, calcium-D, and atorvastatin, in addition to antibiotics which are administered to him from time to time.

For his tender age, Chester’s medication burden is unnecessarily high. His regimen is complex and only a selection of his medicines have approval for use in children of his age. Moreover, a good selection of these is only as tablets (which children of Chester’s age struggle to take).

The issues faced by Chester are not atypical. Patients with chronic diseases face similar challenges.

It is as though those who develop medicines somehow have a blind spot to the many challenges that children like Chester face. You can blame this state of affairs on the way healthcare has traditionally been structured; as patients, we have always depended on our physicians to recommend what to use, and for one reason or another, this has become the default approach.

But things do not need to be this way. As the tech sector has demonstrated, successful products are those developed from the perspectives of end-users. This is what tech calls empathy-driven product development.

Definition of Empathy

Simply defined, empathy is a person’s ability to recognize and share the experiences of another person, both intellectually and emotionally. It involves, first, seeing the other person’s situation from their perspective, and, second, sharing those experiences.

We can distinguish empathy at two levels: individual and organizational. At the individual level, empathy helps us respond appropriately in social situations, build social connections, and support and encourage others on an individual, person-to-person level.

At the organizational level, empathy is about a shared resolve within an organization to show empathy to all stakeholders, including a commitment to recognise and correctly respond to the needs of its customers.

Empathy is not the same as sympathy, a term that describes a feeling of care and concern. Sympathy does not involve a shared perspective or shared emotions.


Examples of Empathy in Products (Fitbit Versa Smart Watch)

Not very long ago fitness trackers were very basic pedometers. There was no option to directly estimate the number of calories burned. Then Fitbit released its range of smart devices (such as Fitbit Versa), which were personalised fitness trackers that also incorporated a smart watch and an app. This opened up new functionalities. Not only were these new devices pedometers, but they also were not able to track fitness, answer calls, send notifications, play music, track your pulse and sleep. Some devices had their own ecosystem of apps, which allowed further personalisation.

As one business analyst commented, smart watches are like “someone who knows more about what you need than you do.”

As I pointed out earlier, in tech, the product must not only be useful and meet a need, but it must also be easy to use, look and feel good and provide a good feeling while being used. Engineers describe these attributes in terms of usability and user experience (UX).

Elements of User Experience (Adapted from Nielsen Norman Group – Definition of user experience)

Now think of the last time you needed the use of any medication such as an inhaler (if you have a child who needs an inhaler device, you will know what I am talking about) or even the humble suppository.



While I hope the medicine was useful, it probably did not meet all the other parameters defined in user experience, such as ease of use.

I know I am pushing the envelope here and the Fitbit Versa and a suppository are literally worlds apart. However, the point is that many products out of healthcare rarely elicit pleasant experiences.

Many oral medicines are unacceptably bitter, medicine packages impossible to open without risking injury, instructions confusing, inhalers impossible to master, and as for suppositories, well, the less said the better! Basically, we’re expected to ‘swallow the bitter pill’ and get on with it.

A little empathy on the part of medicine developers would go a long way. It is not enough for a medicine to be safe and efficacious, patients’ lived experiences; namely their ages, circumstances, preferences, values, cultural traditions, comfort, emotional well-being and socioeconomic conditions, are of equal importance, and need to be included in the formulation equation.


Moving in the Right Direction

Fortunately, there is now a growing interest in using this empathetic approach to new product design within pharma.

Astellas Pharma, for example, is implementing what they call “Patient Focus Experience.” The company aims to understand what matters to the patient and integrating the insights garnered into their development programmes. This will without doubt close the gap between the patient’s needs and the company’s processes and products.

But we still have is that too many companies paying lip service to patients. They still see the world in this paternalistic, myopic way, and are failing to recognise that behind drug products are real people, who face `different pain points.

Opportunities to Apply Empathy

Pursuing empathy requires corporations, not just those that research and develop product in laboratories, to develop a nuanced understanding of patients’ lived circumstances. This is more than an intellectual exercise: it has to involve ‘walking the talk’, visiting and seeing at first-hand what patients go through; their day-to-day struggles and expectations.


Here are four consider of patients where more work is long overdue:


  1. People with conditions which are chronic, symptomatic or affect activities of daily living

In conditions such as asthma, diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, COPD, chronic kidney disease, IBD and Parkinsonism, life for sufferers is a daily balancing act. From a pharmaceutical care perspective, people in this category face the following challenges of high medication burden and regimen, which often confuse patients about how and when to take medicine; regimen complexity; preventable side-effects and how to stay motivated and adhere to prescribed regiments. It has been estimated that these ‘pain points’ contribute up to 50% of patients on chronic medication regimens not adhere to their treatment, a staggering amount of waste!


  1. People with conditions for which some aspects of disease are not fully captured in clinical trials

Drug bioavailability and disposition can be influenced by a number of disease conditions (such as diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, pain, celiac disease, and other idiopathic and iatrogenic syndromes, often involving a broad range of or overlapping symptoms) as well as factors such as diet, age and ethnicity. These influences are easy to replicate during standardized clinical trials which are far removed from real-world circumstances under which patients are treated or live.

This calls for further research on how pharmacokinetic models and dosing recommendations can be best applied to patients with these conditions to ensure patient safety and product effectiveness.

Precision medicines designed to target specific genetic, molecular and cellular markers have the ability to provide patients with treatments that offer better outcomes compared with the current scatter gun approach that is in wide use.


  1. Patients with conditions for which there are currently no therapies or few therapies or therapies that do not affect how the patient feels or functions.

This is a diverse group and as such the barriers experienced by different individuals are not uniform. However, consider individuals and children with neurodevelopmental disorders and disabilities, such as autistic spectrum disorders (ASD), as an example. In ASD there are often other overlapping symptoms and co-occurring disorders. Children also have a wide range of sensitivities – to colours, tastes, textures and noises, as well as physical and intellectual impairments. Many refuse to eat certain foods, let alone medicines, because of sensitivities to taste or texture. Parents of children with ASD know how difficult it is to convince them to swallow pills or teaching them how to use a complex device such as an inhaler. Clearly, more work needs to be done, ranging from ergonomics, to taste and palatability as well as simplifying regimens to address these challenges.


  1. Conditions which selectively impact identifiable sub-populations, such as children and the elderly

Issues facing children are well articulated in the literature. However, there still remains a wide gap in the availability of medicines with specific approval for paediatric patients. In addition, many products are presented in formats that children are not able to or unwilling to take, and the younger the child, the worse the situation. This contributes to the wide use of unlicensed, off-label products, which increase the risk of harm.

Seniors, on the other hand, are one of the biggest but also the most heterogeneous users of medication. They have diverse health needs while also carrying a higher burden of chronic illness, frailty, mobility and manual dexterity issues, dysphagia, medication burden and regimen complexity.


What can be done? There are already proven and available technical solutions that can be deployed right away. These include:

  • Simplifying medication regimens, including once a day dosing, prolonged/delayed release
  • Use of combination products as well as package-drug systems
  • Integrating human factors in device designs to improve usability (e.g asthma inhalers) and/or ergonomics
  • Greater utilization of technologies such as tablet coatings and identifiable marking to improve identification and differentiation (why do all tablet have to look the same?)
  • Increasing use of orally dissolving tablets (ODT) or fast dissolve systems, chewing gums and sublingual tablets in lieu of conventional (swallow) tablets.
  • Efforts to use BIG Data and modern information technologies to capture insights from across the board and use these in product design
  • More research into personalized and precision therapies to improve quality, safety and effectiveness



The current new product development processes are reminiscent of yesterday’s thinking. As the world around us rapidly transforms, and as patients become ever more sophisticated, informed and opinionated, product development professionals will need to start embracing empathy in the formulation equation. This empathetic shift will not only enable pharmaceutical companies to create truly impactful products in line with their existing goals but it will also reduce costs to.


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