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The research behind the delivery of cheap, safe and effective medicine

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SSPC researcher Dr Jay Yadav describes how he is helping to pave a knowledge path to better pharmaceuticals.

After earning both a master’s and PhD from the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research, SAS Nagar, a leading pharmaceutical research institute in India, Dr Jay Yadav took up a role in research and development at a pharma multinational in Hyderabad.

Here, his role was to discover novel solid forms of active pharmaceutical ingredients. Aspirin, paracetamol and ibuprofen are all examples of active pharmaceutical ingredients but Yadav was specifically looking for molecules to treat cancer. As a result of this work, he is both inventor and co-inventor of a number of patents.

Now based in Ireland, Yadav is a research fellow working under Prof Anne Marie Healy at Trinity College Dublin. Healy is co-principal investigator at SSPC, the Science Foundation Ireland research centre for pharmaceuticals. At SSPC, Yadav’s research focuses on pharmaceutical materials and the understanding of advanced processes.

‘Without this knowledge we are likely to spend more time, resources and effort to reach the same desired goal’
– DR JAY YADAV

What inspired you to become a researcher?

I remember the molecular-level understanding of pharmaceutical materials mesmerised me. In fact, I completed my master’s and doctorate degree in the same research area.

The path of a career is not always set in stone, sometimes you otherwise evolve as per your environment, and opportunities are given. I have always contributed something behind the journey of science and innovation. It seems success is, in general, overrated and failure is inevitable. And unfortunately, in the case of the former, the role of luck is undermined.

The philosophical viewpoint aside, I believe an amalgam of academic research and industry experience could open a wider horizon on what would suit you more for your future career. I would say that it is important to decide based on your own experience and what you really want to achieve in your life.

I have always leaned towards research. It does not matter if conducted in academia or industry, it just surprises me, challenges me and drives me. Research could keep you going provided you are really motivated and passionate enough to do so. Overall, the philosophy of science inspired me to become a researcher.

What research are you currently working on?

I am working on an SSPC project which is funded by Science Foundation Ireland. This work involves advanced analytical techniques to characterise pharmaceutical materials.

When material properties are already known and we are aware of processing parameters, that could eventually decide the target performance. It is an interplay of property, processing and performance. One depends on the other, and they only work well together if they are properly approached. Without this knowledge we are likely to spend more time, resources and effort to reach the same desired goal.

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The same knowledge is transferable to other similar materials and processing techniques in the pharmaceutical industry. It becomes more challenging when you work with natural or semisynthetic pharmaceutical materials. Man-made materials variability is easily addressed, but naturally acquired variability remains often under-characterised and poorly understood.

In your opinion, why is your research important?

The development and manufacturing of medicines require knowledge of the integrity of pharmaceutical materials, their properties, efficient process understanding, and how well the resulting medicinal products will perform inside the human body. Without such knowledge, medicines cannot be manufactured efficiently and in a streamlined manner at an industrial scale; nor would these medicines have reliable effectiveness for patients because of the lack of accessibility of medicines inside the human body. (Accessibility of medicines here means the extent active ingredients can access target tissues or organs.)             

What commercial applications do you foresee for your research?

This research could generate knowledge and process understanding to predict, develop and manufacture effective medicines, especially solids that are taken orally. That does not mean that such a knowledge path does not exist now, but this would be one more step on that path and there is still a long way to go.

The overall goal is to develop industrially viable techniques and provide cheap, safe and effective medicine.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a pharmaceutical researcher?

Not specifically in my field, but sometimes I see the research gap between academic research and industrial research. I am not sure if academic research should be 50 years or 30 years ahead of industrial requirements, or both should go hand in hand. It also means that there is a lack of translational research and development in pharmaceutical fields, and so much research has not been translated into the full potential it could offer.

Are there any common misconceptions about pharmaceutical research?

This research area requires innovations, not invention. I believe sometimes just innovations can suffice. ‘Invention’ is often a marketing phrase, and we are so fascinated without realising its impact and whether it is important. That is why someone very wise said: “Nature is a tinkerer, not an inventor.”

What are some of the areas of research you’d like to see tackled in the years ahead?

In the pharmaceutical field, new medicines should be target-specific and less toxic or not toxic at all. It seems unlikely though. All medicines have side effects and they are toxic in some way or another. For example, on the extreme side, cancer medicines are so unkind to the body you cannot imagine.

There should be research areas that can create smart health for the smartphone society. It is quite synonymous with ‘prevention is better than cure’, creating a society free from any diseases and malignancies, not the society trying to find new medicines and new treatments as and when required. If the latter is the case, then it is a never-ending race we can never win.

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Facebook oversight board to review system that exempts elite users | Facebook

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Facebook’s semi-independent oversight board says it will review the company’s “XCheck” system, an internal program that has exempted high-profile users from some or all of its rules.

The decision follows an investigation by the Wall Street Journal that revealed that reviews of posts by well-known users such as celebrities, politicians and journalists are steered into the separate system.

Under the program, some users are “whitelisted”, or not subject to enforcement action, while others are allowed to post material that violates Facebook rules pending content reviews that often do not take place. The Xcheck system, for example, allowed Brazilian footballer Neymar to post nude pictures of a woman who had accused him of rape, according to the report.

Users were identified for additional scrutiny based on criteria such as being “newsworthy”, “influential or popular” or “PR risky”, the Wall Street Journal found. By 2020 there were 5.8 million users on the XCheck list, according to the newspaper.

The oversight board said Tuesday that it expects to have a briefing with Facebook on the system and “will be reporting what we hear from this” as part of a report it will publish in October.

The board may also make other recommendations, although Facebook is not bound to follow these.

The Journal’s report, the board said, has drawn “renewed attention to the seemingly inconsistent way that the company makes decisions, and why greater transparency and independent oversight of Facebook matters so much for users”.

Facebook told the Journal in response to its investigation that the system “was designed for an important reason: to create an additional step so we can accurately enforce policies on content that could require more understanding”. The company added that criticism of it was “fair” and that it was working to fix it.

A representative for Facebook declined to comment to the Associated Press on the oversight board’s decision.

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Philippines imposes 12 per cent digital services tax • The Register

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The Philippines has become the latest nation to impose a digital services tax.

Such taxes require the likes of Netflix and Spotify to pay local sales taxes even though their services are delivered – legally, notionally, and physically – from beyond local jurisdiction.

The Philippines has chosen a rate of 12 per cent, mirroring local value added taxes.

“We have now clarified that digital services and the goods and services traded through digital service providers should generally be subject to VAT. This is just a matter of common tax sense,” said Joey Salceda, a member of the Philippines’ House of Representatives and a backer of the change to the nation’s tax code.

Salceda tied the change to post-pandemic economic recovery.

“If brick and mortar establishments, which are the hardest-hit by the pandemic, have to pay VAT, the giants of e-commerce shouldn’t be exempt,” he said.

However, local companies that are already exempt from VAT by virtue of low turnover won’t be caught by the extension of the tax into the virtual realm.

Salceda’s amendments are designed to catch content streamers, but also online software sales – including mobile apps – plus SaaS and hosted software. The Philippines’ News Agency’s report on the amendment’s passage into law even mentions firewalls as subject to VAT.

The Philippines is not alone in introducing a digital services tax to raise more revenue after the COVID-19 pandemic hurt government revenue – Indonesia used the same logic in 2020 .

But the taxes are controversial because they are seen as a unilateral response to the wider issue of multinational companies picking the jurisdictions in which they’ll pay tax – a practice that erodes national tax bases. The G7 group of nations, and the OECD, think that collaborations that shift tax liabilities to nations where goods and services are acquired and consumed are the most appropriate response, and that harmonising global tax laws to make big tech pay up wherever they do business is a better plan than digital services taxes.

The USA has backed that view of digital services taxes, by announcing it will impose tariffson nations that introduce them – but is yet to enact that plan.

Meanwhile, the process of creating a global approach to multinational tax shenanigans is taking years to agree and implement.

But The Philippines wants more cash in its coffers – and to demonstrate that local businesses aren’t being disadvantaged – ASAP. ®

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How to ask your boss for more flexible working

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While returning to the office is now possible for many, some workers might still want the option of flexible working some of the time. Here’s how to broach the subject.

This week marked the beginning of a phased and staggered return to workplaces for many employees in Ireland.

It essentially marked the first official green light for employers to ready their offices and start putting plans in place for their staff’s return.

Click here to check out the top sci-tech employers hiring right now.

However, HR body CIPD Ireland urged employers to be mindful of anxious workers as they face “another round of upheaval” with the return to offices.

So, while employers are finalising plans about how, where and when their teams will work, some employees may be wondering how to go about expressing their preference, worried that it’s not in line with what the company wants.

While there have been plenty of discussions and remote work advocates calling for leaders to be more flexible and recognise that the future of work will be hybrid, the reality for individual employees can feel very different.

While big-picture debates around the right to request remote work are happening, how do you ask for what you want in the here and now, when your boss is determined to have a full return to the office?

Explain your reasons

If remote or flexible working isn’t something your boss is already willing to give you, then you must treat it like a pay rise request.

Explain clearly and concisely the reasons why you want more flexibility, how it will benefit you and make you a more engaged, happier worker.

While family commitments might be an important factor, so too is work-life balance and getting rid of long commutes. And, while there is light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, Covid-19 is still a very real concern, so don’t be afraid to express your reservations about this too.

Make a business case

When you ask for a pay increase, you provide proof of the value you have added to the company. Take the same approach here and explain to your boss how flexible working will actually be beneficial to them.

Some managers who resist remote working might still have an office-based mentality where presenteeism is key. But there are numerous studies that show that knowledge workers are more productive when working remotely.

And, when done as a purposeful business strategy, remote working can help teams prioritise work more clearly as well as allowing for more downtime and work-life balance.

Be realistic

Depending on your manager, your team and the work you do, it may not be feasible to ask to work from home five days a week.

It’s important that you are realistic about asking for what you want and also realistic about what you can deliver in return. Remote workers can be more productive but they can also be in danger of burning out so be thoughtful about what strategy will work best for both you and your manager.

Listen to their perspective

While conversations around remote working appear to be mostly positive, it can be a different situation behind the office doors.

Many managers and leaders are still hesitant about moving to a fully flexible working strategy and this can lead to workers feeling like they are not being listened to.

However, one of the best ways to combat that hesitancy from managers is to listen to their concerns and address them in a problem-solving manner.

Being able to alleviate some of your manager’s worries might make them more amenable to allowing for more flexibility.

Make expectations clear

If you do convince your boss to allow for a more flexible working plan than what they had originally considered, it’s important that both sides understand what is expected.

Without clearly defining the outcomes of the new set-up, misunderstandings can lead to disappointments and feelings of mistrust in the idea of flexible working.

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