Meet the Expert: Farhan Taherali
In the first of a new series where we get to know some of the brilliant people at Sygnature Discovery, we caught up with Farhan, a Senior Scientist in our new Form and Formulation team…
Let’s start right at the beginning. When did you know you wanted to get into science?
Quite young! I sadly lost my grandmother to colon cancer when I was 10 years old. At that point, I realised that going forward, I wanted to do something where I could make a difference to lives of patients suffering from such diseases.
You’re originally from Kenya, but you studied for your Bachelor of Pharmacy in India. What was that like?
I really enjoyed living and studying in India (at the Manipal Academy of Higher Education). It’s a global university and I made friends from all over the world and learned to converse in Hindi.
From a scientific perspective, it was interesting to see how the approach differed, especially when I later studied for my MSc and PhD at the University of London and UCL. At the time, in the Indian scene, the emphasis was on the generic drug market and natural products, whereas the UK industry has a greater focus on innovation on the targets and formulations.
Speaking of formulation, you joined Sygnature Discovery earlier this year as we prepared to open our new department. Has it been a busy few months?
Yes – very much so. Setting up the Form and Formulation department has meant getting involved with everything from purchasing to equipment installations, on top of all the project science, of course. Thankfully the other departments here have helped massively to make our integration go smoothly, and now it’s a very exciting time.
And what does being part of that new team mean to you?
I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work with such experienced scientists and recognised experts in the field. As we’ve started out from scratch, I’m looking forward to us growing rapidly while making a continued difference to the patient.
I’m excited about the new formulation solutions we will be offering; after all, it’s about getting the molecule from the bench to clinic. Throughout my career, I’ve appreciated the power of formulations – it’s an important factor for the success of a molecule by, for instance, improving its acceptability, stability or solubility and consequently leading to successful therapeutic outcomes .
With our new Form and Formulation facility, our team can integrate with our chemistry, DMPK and in vivo colleagues in the early stages to improve the solubility and stability of molecules, and then formulate them once they get to the lead stage.
It will be a tremendous aid in our drug discovery projects.
Why should any young people reading this blog consider going into drug discovery?
It’s an exciting time! We’ve seen with the pandemic and how important the vaccine turnaround has been, and science has so much to offer humanity in almost every walk of life.
If you’re inspired by science, drug discovery and development is a good place to be – after all, your work could be of enormous benefit globally. Just be passionate, be curious and keep learning. It’s such a vast field, you’ll never stop learning every day!
So what’s your proudest achievement to date?
Early in my career, I worked in Kenya to co-ordinate development of a dispersible zinc sulphate tablet for treating diarrhoea in children. Diarrhoeal disease is the second leading cause of death in children under five years old.
This product is widely accessible over-the-counter, and I am very pleased to have contributed to this initiative.
Lastly, is there anything about drug discovery you think the general public would be most surprised by?
I think it’s easy to take for granted that you can hold a molecule in your hand as a dosage form – for example, a tablet – after thousands of others have been tried previously. It’s important to appreciate all the time, money and hard work that goes into drug discovery, because every molecule is precious.
Want to join Farhan in working in drug discovery?