Formulation Chemistry

Did you ever think about all the different components that go into a product? For example, that aspirin tablet you take when you have a headache contains not only aspirin, but colorants, flavors, binders, and many other ingredients that do not react with each other but serve important roles in the final product. Some of them are included to increase safety or efficacy of the drug, and others aid in the manufacturing process. The science, and art, of determining the proper combination of ingredients, while balancing product quality, stability, cost, and many other factors is an intriguing puzzle that fascinates chemists.

Typical Job Duties

  • Design multivariate studies of different formulations of a particular product, minimizing the number of replicates while maximizing the amount of information obtained.
  • Conduct studies on long-term stability of products.
  • Help manage clinical trials, pilot studies, and panel tests to compare reactions of potential customers to proposed formulations.
  • Analyze results of experimental studies and write reports for both corporate records and regulatory bodies.
  • Develop prototype products for use by focus groups or in clinical trials.
  • Assist with scale-up from development to production quantities, in collaboration with chemical engineers and plant production personnel.
  • Modify excipients (inactive ingredients) to increase the bioavailability of low-solubility active pharmaceutical ingredients.

Technical Skills

  • Basic laboratory skills, especially in analytical techniques for product analysis.
  • Math and statistical skills for complex experimental design and analysis.
  • Teamwork and interpersonal skills, to work with large, interdisciplinary teams.
  • Negotiating and the ability to balance competing needs of product quality, ease of production, and cost.
  • Ability to analyze experimental results, draw conclusions, and propose logical next steps to reach corporate goals.
  • Written and oral communication skills, including the ability to communicate clearly with other chemists and scientists, as well as non-scientists.
  • Ability to work in a fast-paced environment, and manage multiple, changing priorities simultaneously.

Career Path

Formulation science is a hands-on career. Most people start out working at the bench, and remain close to it throughout their career. Advancement comes in the form of larger and more complex projects, more responsibility, and eventually training new formulation scientists. Most opportunities are in large manufacturing companies, but there are a few contract research firms.

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