Andy Dundon: the design behind the device
Andy Dundon leads our Research and Development (R&D) Device Engineering team in Ware, UK. His team focuses on ways to improve the design of our drug delivery devices, including through the use of digital technologies.
Device engineering sounds like an interesting role. Can you tell us about your career journey to get here?
I trained as an analytical chemist, joining GSK from Dublin City University in 1988. I worked in different areas of product development, supporting a wide range of development programmes. In 1999 I took up a six-month secondment in device engineering, a completely different part of the business.
Those six months made me realise how much I enjoyed the work - and that I might have chosen the wrong degree at university! Device engineering is where my passion lies. I think I have the best job in the company; taking the molecules discovered in early research and transforming them into medicines that are simple, convenient and easy to use.
What innovations are your team currently focusing on?
GSK has been a leader in respiratory for more than 45 years, and our current portfolio of respiratory medicines are primarily inhaled, using the Ellipta® inhaler, and a number of other inhalers e.g. Diskus and metered dose inhalers (MDI). However, as our range of respiratory products diversifies we need to think about how these medicines are delivered to patients, i.e. should they be created to be inhaled, or would an alternative delivery system be more suitable.
With our inhaled products, we’re researching how we can better deliver medicines to the lungs. We’re also exploring ways we can help to ensure patients take the correct dose. Part of that would be how we track information and provide feedback to the healthcare professional or patients, with the aim of accurately monitoring disease state.
In your opinion, what makes the Ellipta® inhaler unique?
Our Ellipta® inhaler is the result of more than ten years of design, development and planning, involving direct patient experience and feedback.
As our current range of medicines are taken once a day, a new and differently designed mechanism was needed, which required extensive planning. The result is the Ellipta® inhaler, which is able to deliver medicines consistently, and is operated in just three steps: open, inhale, close.
My team is committed to continuing to innovate and advance the science in this field.
What is the biggest challenge facing device engineering currently?
As new science emerges from our R&D teams, our device engineers need to remain at the forefront of the technology associated with the delivery of that potential new medicine. As our product range continues to grow and scientific advances continue to be made, we need to develop drug delivery devices to meet that need. For example, biopharmaceuticals cannot be delivered as tablets, so we need to think of alternative delivery mechanisms.
One of the key challenges is how we improve patient adherence and compliance. We are embracing new technologies and digital platforms to enhance our understanding of disease management. We are also moving from simple mechanical systems of delivery to developing more complex electro-mechanical systems.
How do you think engineering will shape the next generation of inhalers?
The next generation of inhalers will be driven by feedback from patients, and by the growth and diversification of our product range.
Advances in digital technologies, such as wearable or remote biosensors and smart mobile health platforms, provide an opportunity to accurately monitor a patient’s physiology and behaviour. This may help to improve our understanding of a patient’s response to different drugs.