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Conversations with… Irene Rossi

Irene Rossi Nanopharm

Team Profile: Irene Rossi,
Head of New Modalities
Pharmaceutical Development

Irene, how did you start your journey?

I started my adventure in inhalation and nasal drug delivery back in 2013 as an undergraduate at the University of Parma, with my thesis focussing on particle engineering, especially for antibiotics. Interestingly, the first powder I developed back then, I have now revisited having recently tested it in a device over 10 years later!

Following my undergraduate studies, for the next two years I worked in a fellowship programme at the University specialising in nebulisers and particle engineering. This was my first exposure to the commercial world as contracts were undertaken by the University and research centre for a range of different pharma companies.

I found I loved the nasal and inhalation field in particular, and so in 2015, I started my PhD focussing on pulmonary vaccination. Using my background in particle engineering and formulation development, I turned my attention to large molecules such as proteins. In collaboration with the in-house biotech group, together we were able to deliver a novel HPV antigen as a dry powder inhaler. Also, during that time, I spent six months in the US where I began to work with cells and bacteria. This was also the first time I had experience of working with in-vivo animal pre-clinical studies.

What does your current role and responsibilities look like at Nanopharm?

In 2019 I joined Nanopharm starting as a senior scientist in pharmaceutical development, moving then to a lab supervisor role before being promoted to a principal scientist. Today, I work on the formulation development of biologics and new chemical entities as well as the repurposing of molecules from other drug delivery forms into respiratory or nasal devices.

What do you see as the key strengths of the Nanopharm offer?

Firstly, this is a great place to work! I see the way we work as one of our key strengths – we aren’t like a typical CRO or CDMO with a straight through process irrespective of the nuances of the project.

Secondly, we are all scientists which makes us very curious by nature and drives us to bring as much value as we can to our client’s projects.

Finally, we don’t just deliver great quality data, we impart science and share our insight to offer another perspective. Our focus is on driving collaboration and embedding understanding in specific device performance, while at the same time advancing the knowledge in our industry as a whole.

As we enter the second half of 2023, what are your priorities for the rest of the year?

To continue our collective understanding of biologics as well as my personal understanding of large molecules. Post pandemic, more customers are exploring nasal as a viable route for the delivery of macro molecules, an area where we have delivered huge amounts of work in the past two years – and a bit of a departure for the industry.

We are also focussing on testing and generics development, as well as looking at NCE’s and the innovative ways in which we can deliver perhaps DPIs to better treat patients.

And what about the market outlook?

Our global clients continue to ask us to look at nasal drug delivery, particularly for biologics, as more clients look to move from liquid to powder formulations. The inhalation space continues to grow in interest too – especially for biotech’s looking to deliver macro molecules and biologics through nebulisation and perhaps then a further transition to DPIs in the future.

Finally, could you give us an interesting fact only a few people would know about you?

I actually asked my team about what they would say about me! I love music, concerts and festivals, in fact every summer I meet my friends from around the world to go to a music festival.

Confession time, every morning I wake up to country music, which I really love and is I guess is pretty unique – especially for an Italian person!