Polymers in Diffusion and Drug Delivery

By Niall McMahon
June, 2003


This was my first visit to the Institute of Physics on Portland Place, a wide, grand street north of Oxford Circus that's home to Broadcasting House. The Chinese Embassy is also quite obvious, not because of its iconic architecture, but because of the very yellow Falun Dafa protest across the street.

I arrived at the IOP before 10:30. The institute staff members were very helpful and the general impression was one of a professional and organised meeting. There was one other poster presentation, "SCF Processing of Semi-crystalline PCL: Microstructural, Mechanical and Thermal Properties" by Kate Harrison of the University of Birmingham, clearly describing the application of a new technique - supercritical fluid foaming - to produce porous polymeric scaffolds.

In total there were eighteen, I believe, at the conference. This relatively small number made for an informal and relaxed atmosphere. Before the conference got underway, I was fortunate enough to chat with many of those in attendance, and was delighted to find myself in the midst of mostly experimental scientists! My work is entirely theoretical (and currently at a fairly basic level), so it was quite exciting to find myself in a group who work in laboratories with advanced materials, techniques and ideas. All those I spoke with were very open and enthusiastic about their work. I learned quite a bit over the course of the day, with patient answers to my questions such as, "what is a scaffold?"

The lectures themselves were all interesting and informative and covered topics relating to polymer diffusion systems including imaging, making measurements, modelling, and analysis of the mechanics of such systems. The use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to visualise these systems and aid in the analysis of drug release was well explained by Peter McDonald of Surrey and Georgina Milroy of Cambridge, with Anthony Clough of Surrey discussing related work that uses an ion beam to make measurements. This was almost all new to me and so quite enjoyable. Gerhard Goldbeck-Wood of Accelrys spoke about the modelling of nano-metre scale interactions in drug formulation, about a million times smaller than the scale of the "macro" interactions that we are currently considering. Mangala Patel of Queen Mary & Westfield College at the University of London spoke about the use of rigid polymeric materials, traditionally used in prostheses, for oral drug delivery. Michael Braden also from Queen Mary & Westfield College spoke on the same topic, but about a specific polymer that delivers drug more efficiently than typical (PMMA based) systems and that has unusual water uptake characteristics. Sergei Kazarian concluded the lectures with a talk on using a novel infrared spectroscopic technique to image polymeric drug delivery systems.


I would like to thank John Clark for organising this conference and his help, Claire Pantlin at the IOP for her help, and the Polymer Physics Group of the IOP whose financial support was very much appreciated. I would also like to thank all those who I spoke with.

N. McMahon, 2003.

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