The challenge of finding pharmacy work experience in industry as a student is something Sarah Connolly, director of regulatory affairs at Bio-images Research, remembers well.
“Although I struggled to get industrial experience during my undergraduate studies, I am very glad I persevered because the experience I did get helped me to secure a preregistration placement in the sector,” reflects Dr Connolly. She now tries to accommodate trainees whenever possible and has made it her business to ensure her organisation offers summer placements for students who are interested in a career in this sector.
An introduction to pharmaceuticals
Dr Connolly completed a summer placement at Controlled Therapeutics (now Ferring Controlled Therapeutics) and then went on to carry out a split preregistration post between industry and hospital pharmacy.
At Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Dr Connolly gained experience in hospital pharmacy through conducting clinical rotations, aseptic manufacturing, dispensing medicines and working in medicines information.
For the industry part of her preregistration training Dr Connolly spent six months at Quintiles, a drug research company, where she worked with many departments to gain experience in the pharmaceutical industry. During this period she learnt about and had input into pre-formulation and formulation studies, liaised with clients and worked with project managers on assessments and registration of chemicals.
She also gained experience in business development, where she liaised with heads of the formulation development, analytical development and quality control departments to write quotations for clients’ studies.
Further study and a job in industry
After qualifying as a pharmacist, Dr Connolly undertook a PhD in drug delivery at the University of Strathclyde and successfully passed her viva voce in 2008.
After completing her PhD and working for a short time as a locum pharmacist, Dr Connolly started working at Bio-Images Research as a clinical research pharmacist. “We specialise in clinical trials using the imaging technique gamma scintigraphy, which allows for the non-invasive visualisation of drug formulations and body systems,” she explains.
“A gamma-emitting radiopharmaceutical is incorporated into the formulation allowing images to be acquired over time. Analysis of the images provides information on formulation behaviour in vivo. The technique can also be used to understand the effects of food on drug delivery and how gut motility is influenced by drugs,” she adds.
Dr Connolly’s current duties as director of regulatory affairs range from clinical trial design and protocol development to oversight of clinical trial manufacturing, dispensing of radio-labelled dosage forms and reviewing regulatory submissions.
“With the recent expansion of the Bio-Images group I have been leading a project to plan a larger-scale GMP manufacturing facility, which has been an exciting new challenge,” she says.
On track to apply to the RPS Faculty
Dr Connolly says she is interested in joining the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Faculty and has submitted her initial eligibility application. “I believe that having a framework of competencies to aspire to will improve my professional practice. The mentoring scheme is also appealing and I think this is something I’d like to investigate further,” she says.
“I would thoroughly recommend a career in the industrial sector. I have been happy with my choices to date and I am enjoying my career in clinical research,” remarks Dr Connolly, adding: “Working for a small company is great. From day 1, I was meeting with company directors and owners. Our small on-site team works well together — with scientists from different backgrounds making up the team. Every day is different and knowing that our clinical studies help get new drugs to market is very rewarding.”