The Pharmaceutical Education Project

Trains graduate and undergraduate students to bring a new perspective to the pharmaceutical industry. To supplement direct faculty mentorship in the laboratory, students can take a number of pharmaceutically oriented courses, including our capstone course on Drug Design, Development and Delivery and the week-long Pharmaceutical Industry Plant Trip (see below) over spring break, both of which are unique opportunities that cannot be found at other universities. We support our students through a Doctoral Fellowship Program funded in part by a U.S. Department of Education training grant.

Pharmaceutical Industry Plant Trip

While most students are finishing finals and quickly packing their bags headed for the beach or the mountains, a group of students from Georgia Tech embarks upon a spring break adventure that proves just as rewarding as it was unique. Instead of relaxing on the sand or hiking a steep trail, 23 students from the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Department of Biomedical Engineering and the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, tour leading pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities in Puerto Rico, one of the top locations in the world for pharmaceutical manufacturing. The educational trip is supplemented by opportunities for sight-seeing and recreation, and the students return eagerly sharing memories of both the plant tours and the free-time they enjoyed on the island.

pictureAccompanied by Mark Prausnitz, PhD and Andy Bommarius PhD, Professors of Chemical and Biomolecular Bngineering and directors of GT's Center for Drug Design, Development, and Delivery (CD4), the group visits manufacturing facilities for pharmaceutical giants such as Amgen, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Pfizer, and Wyeth, to take an up-front look at how drugs are made at state-of-the-art facilities.

The trip is part of the class, Drug Design, Development, and Delivery, which is taught by the two professors and is supported by GT's College of Engineering and College of Sciences, as well as the Department of Biomedical Engineering, Schools of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering and Chemistry and Biochemistry. The professors chose Puerto Rico because it is one of the largest sites of pharmaceutical manufactures in the world with one-fourth of its gross domestic product derived from the industry. They believe introducing the broad scope of the pharmaceutical industry in the classroom, learning and applying the science that supports the industry in GT labs, and then providing students the opportunity to observe applications of engineering and problem solving first-hand at the Puerto Rican plants provide a truly comprehensive overview.

"As a component of the pharmaceutical training program at GT, this plant trip gave students a first-hand understanding of the complex processes needed to make drugs and the innovative solutions the pharmaceutical industry has developed," said Dr. Prausnitz.

As the first university group from the main-land United States to visit most of these facilities, the GT participants are greeted by top management and escorted by the plant designers and operators manufacturing insulin, birth control pills and patches, antibiotics, antidepressants, and cholesterol-reducing drugs.

"They were able to learn the nuts and bolts of pharmaceutical manufacturing but also absorb cultural nuances about how to work with designers and plant workers in an increasingly international industry" Dr. Bommarius said.

The trip proves to be a great success in providing students with a unique perspective on the pharmaceutical industry that cannot be experienced in the classroom. Drs. Prausnitz and Bommarius plan to return next spring with a new group so that they too may have an unprecedented edge in their overall educational background.

The Vaccine Technology Project

The Vaccine Technology Project provides a focused program to invent and adapt technologies to improve vaccines for both domestic and global needs. Within this project, the Bioprocess Manufacturing Laboratory is developing production and purification methods for conventional as well as DNA-based vaccines. The Vaccine Delivery Laboratory is creating needle-free and single-dose vaccines that increase protection.

The Pharmaceutical Pipeline Project

The Pharmaceutical Pipeline Project represents a concerted effort to address the shortcomings of pharmaceuticals. Our solution is to approach the biological problems in drug development by applying the tools of engineering and physical sciences. We have established three Consortia within this project: the first is designing new drugs to treat cancer, AIDS, bacterial infections, and other diseases; the second is developing novel processes to manufacture drugs using cells, enzymes and other biologically based approaches that increase purity and decrease cost; and the third is applying engineering technologies to make taking drugs easier, more effective and less frequent for patients. Through this project we will impact healthcare by making pharmaceuticals more effective, less expensive and more convenient for patients.