Founded in 1922, Thornton & Ross develops and manufactures over-the-counter pharmacy brands including household names such as Covonia, Setlers, Zoflora and the award-winning head lice treatment, Hedrin. The company is the largest independent pharmaceutical manufacturer in the UK and has been working, since 2007, in a partnership with IPOS that takes full advantage of the University’s wealth of expertise in analytical, process development and physical organic chemistry.

IPOS is one of a select few research centres in the UK to have been awarded ISO 9001 and is soon to be audited by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency for its Good Laboratory Practice accreditation. Both of these are internationally and industry recognised standards that guarantee that work carried out within IPOS is conducted to the highest levels of management and quality control. IPOS provides a range of solutions from its purpose built research facility, fully equipped with state-of-the-art analytical and process development instrumentation.

Shortly after it was first set up in 2006, the Innovative Physical Organic Solutions (IPOS) group, within the Department of Chemical and Biological Sciences, was approached by a major pharmaceutical manufacturer, Thornton & Ross. The company needed help with a specific analytical test that it was unable to manage in-house and the success of that research triggered a stream of analytical work, which now accounts for a significant proportion of the work carried out within the IPOS laboratories.

“Thornton & Ross has a long and solid history with the University of Huddersfield. It’s our local university and we have a tradition of taking placement students from there and of using its expertise,” explains Dr Nigel Cooper, Director of Product Development at Thornton & Ross. “When we wanted to outsource a particularly complex analytical test it was our first port of call and we were recommended to IPOS as it had both the technology and the expertise we needed.”

Thornton & Ross was one of IPOS’ first clients and the number of projects the group undertakes for the company has grown massively since then.  For specific projects, IPOS continues to run analytical tests on an ad hoc basis but much of the work is now done as part of a technical agreement established between the two organisations.

IPOS now works with Thornton & Ross across the full range of its medicinal products. “Many of these projects are extremely complex and run for several years,” Dr Cooper continues. “If we wanted to run them ourselves we would have to invest heavily in new equipment and highly skilled employees so we rely on having access to IPOS’ wealth of experience and state-of-the-art equipment right on our doorstep.”

As a commercial research group, IPOS works with a range of other industry partners but Thornton & Ross is its mainstay. Dr Matthew Stirling, Research Fellow at IPOS, is clear about the benefits this has for both sides. “Our work has helped Thornton & Ross expand its product range and meet their analytical regulatory requirements.” he says. “They trust what we do and we have the security of consistent work that has enabled IPOS to grow from a staff of just two to the ten we have running commercial projects at present.”

At its new, purpose built lab, which is an Agilent Technologies Centre of Excellence, Dr Stirling explains how the relationship works. “As their product range expands, new methods are required for analysing active ingredients and product degradation.  The in-house expertise we have developed here in working with complex sample matrices has enabled Thornton & Ross to meet the specifications required for the manufacture of products that are now sold in over 90 countries worldwide.”

Thornton & Ross has aggressive plans for growth, and widening the scope for collaboration with IPOS is an essential element to that. “Working with IPOS has given us access to stringently high quality analytical work that it would not be cost effective to create in-house,” says Dr Cooper.” We have worked together for a long time now so they understand us pretty well and we are looking forward to strengthening this relationship over the coming years.”

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