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Simerdeep Singh Gupta ’10GP, ’14Ph.D.

SJU Pharmacy Student Conducts Critical Drug Treatment Research

As the son of a retail pharmacy owner, Simerdeep Singh Gupta ’10GP, ’14Ph.D., always knew he wanted to pursue a career in the field. “While my dad’s business focused on selling pharmaceutical drugs,” he said, “I was always curious about how these drugs were made.”  

After completing undergraduate studies in Mumbai, India, Gupta left his native country to pursue graduate work in Industrial pharmacy at St. John’s University in 2007. His master’s thesis focused on the process of creating nanoparticles for delivering medication directly to the brain.

“My work involves the art of making formulations that help patients,” he said. “I develop more effective products designed to ensure the best pharmacological performance of active ingredients.” Alzheimer’s brain targeting is a specific area of interest for him.   

When it came time to pursue his Ph.D., Gupta completed his thesis on solubility enhancement of drugs by hot melt extrusion—a process that has been used in the plastics and food industries since the 1930s. Manipulated for pharmaceutical purposes, hot melt extrusion can be used to prepare solid dispersions that help drugs dissolve faster, reach the blood stream more rapidly, and have improved clinical effects. Gupta’s research path was to understand various processing and formulation parameters that define the performance of a solid dispersion product by melt extrusion process. His thesis is a blend of addressing the problem of poorly water solubility of most drugs, highlighting the processing and formulation parameters in their preparation by hot melt extrusion and their effect on the product’s stability and dissolution performance. Gupta has five research articles from his projects at St. John’s University, and will be publishing several more. His research has branched out as other Ph.D. and Master’s projects, which are ongoing in the lab. Gupta’s research work has attracted pharmaceutical industry grant worth $200,000. He has presented his work all over the US at various major and local conferences. Gupta received the Schering Plough-Modified Release Focus Group (MRFG) travelship at the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) meeting 2009, and won the New Jersey Pharmaceutical Association for Science and Technology (NJPhAST) scholarship in 2013.

“Simerdeep is an outstanding researcher with strong leadership skills and a role model for other graduate students in my laboratory,” said Abu Serajuddin, Ph.D., professor of industrial pharmacy and Gupta’s research mentor. “The majority of drugs under development by the pharmaceutical industry and various research institutions are extremely insoluble in water. When taken orally, they do not dissolve easily and have difficulty in reaching the bloodstream. Simerdeep has made major contributions to address this difficult challenge by applying novel technology like melt extrusion.”

Gupta served as the vice chair in 2009 and chair of the AAPS student chapter in 2011. He led a team of over 100 undergraduate and graduate student and faculty members and made major contributions in the chapter. The main goal of his term was to broaden research knowledge to thesis and non-thesis students. Alongside guest speaker presentations and educational sessions, he initiated equipment demonstration workshop for all students where an experienced Ph.D. candidate would give a theoretical presentation followed by a practical demonstration of processing or analytical equipments to the students. This workshop proved to be very successful and is still being conducted once every month by various lab students in the college of pharmacy. Gupta also encouraged students to participate and present their research at local monthly conferences such as NJPhAST that gave the students the picture from the pharmaceutical industry’s perspective.

Gupta also contributed at St. John’s as a tutor by teaching pharmaceutical compounding and pharmaceutics to undergraduate Pharm D. students. His input in the course curriculum has improved the quality of the laboratory exercises that are taught to the students and has also helped numerous students with the NY state pharmacy board exam.

“Dr. Gupta is well on his way to becoming a distinguished scholar,” said John-Emery Konecsni, Ph.D., assistant dean, graduate programs, College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. “It is my hope that after a significant career in industrial pharmacy, he’ll join our faculty, as several of his predecessors have done.”

Gupta is convinced SJU was the best choice for his studies. “Not many schools in the United States offer degree programs in industrial pharmacy,” he said. “St. John’s is one of the best-known universities for this specialty and afforded me an education that wouldn’t have been possible anywhere else.”