MSE Research Project Database

Polymer use and recycling in a pharmaceutical Blow-Fill-Seal process: an industry PhD with manufacturer GSK

Project Leader: Sally Louise Gras
Collaborators: GlaxoSmithKline
Sponsors: GlaxoSmithKline
Primary Contact: Sally Louise Gras (
Disciplines: Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering
Domains: Convergence of engineering and IT with the life sciences, Optimisation of resources and infrastructure

GSK Boronia’s production is based around Blow-Fill-Seal (BFS) technology that predominantly uses pharmaceutical grade low density polyethylene (LDPE).  The chemical and physical properties of this LDPE and any variation in these properties are of critical importance to the performance of the BFS process. GSK are interested in developing tests to characterise the properties of the LDPE prior to the BFS process and to better understand structural and chemical changes that occur during the BFS process. A further aim is to assess the potential of recycling LDPE by-product, as current rates of wastage are high. Changes to leachables and extractables would be assessed during recycling, as these compounds must be tracked and minimised within pharmaceutical processes. The knowledge generated in this project will directly assist GSK in their operations, but may also have broader impact on the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry and the student will have the opportunity to interact with polymer suppliers and other manufacturers.

The student will be jointly supervised by Associate Professor Sally Gras at the University of Melbourne and an industry supervisor from GSK. They will be based at the Bio21 Institute and Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Melbourne and spend time on site at GST in Boronia, as needed by the project.  They will be mentored by GSK staff and will also learn about GSK’s management and problem solving processes.

The successful candidate will have an undergraduate or masters degree in chemical engineering or chemistry and be eligible and competitive for a research scholarship. The project will commence in 2017 and applicants are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. This PhD offers an outstanding opportunity for a student wanting to enter the pharmaceutical manufacturing field in Australia and to apply their skills to assist the industry and improve environmental sustainability.