Portrait of Dr Alan Smith Dr Alan Smith

a.m.smith@hud.ac.uk | 01484 472305


Dr Smith is a Reader in Biopolymer Materials.  He graduated from Salford University (Biochemical Science) in 1997 before gaining his PhD from Cranfield University developing polysaccharide substitutes for gelatin in the production of pharmaceutical capsules under the supervision of Prof. Ed Morris. Following his PhD Dr Smith worked for 2 years as a formulation scientist within the pharmaceutical industry before taking up a position as a polysaccharide chemist at Industrial Research Limited, Wellington, New Zealand. On his return to the UK Dr. Smith has worked as a research fellow at the University of Birmingham (School of Dentistry) and Aston University (School of Pharmacy) developing 3D cell scaffolds and polysaccharide based drug delivery systems. In 2008 he joined the tissue regeneration and interface laboratory within Chemical Engineering at the University of Birmingham where he continued to develop his research on biopolymers for tissue engineering and drug delivery applications before being appointed as a Senior Lecturer in Pharmaceutics at the University of Huddersfield in March 2011 and then promoted to Reader in 2016.

Research and Scholarship

Dr Smith’s research group focuses on pharmaceutical and medical applications of biopolymers. Biopolymers are a versatile class of materials which exhibit easily tailorable properties that are advantageous in developing bio-responsive drug delivery systems and functional cell culture substrates.

3D Suspended Manufacturing of Complex Tissues

Polysaccharides hydrogels provide an extremely mild and simple route to 3D cell immobilisation providing the cells with an environment that is similar to natural extracellular matrix. In collaboration with the University of Birmingham Dr Smith is developing methods to enable the culture of multiple cell types from mesenchymal stem cells within a single 3D structure. Using a novel suspended manufacturing 3D printing technique it is possible to produce complex cell-laden structures with high-levels of spatial control over mechanical and chemical properties. The potential of this method for producing complicated tissues was recently demonstrated by manufacturing an osteochondral structure with a hard/soft tissue interface that contained autologous cells and that maintained their phenotype following tissue culture

Physiologically Responsive Biopolymers

The ability to retain a drug or cells at the site of action is an important consideration for many localised applications such as wound healing and ocular drug delivery. Biopolymers in particular, can interact with physiological secretions via physical interactions allowing sustained delivery of therapeutic molecules. Currently, Dr Smith is developing methods to measure sol-gel transitions in situ and investigating how modification of various biopolymers can enhance bioadhesion and increase drug retention time.

Fluid Gels as Modified Release Drug Delivery Systems

The ability to modify release of a drug from liquid formulations is a particularly challenging when designing age appropriate dosage forms. Currently, we are trying to overcome this problem by investigating encapsulating drugs in polysaccharide fluid gels (also referred to as sheared gels). Fluid gels are produced by introducing a shear field while a gelation reaction is occurring in biopolymer solutions. This results in the production of suspensions of gel particles which can be formulated so the bulk material acts as a pourable viscoelastic fluid whilst retaining a cross-linked gel microstructure within the particles (Fig 3). By careful selection of the biopolymers used formulations can be developed to physically respond to physiological secretions at specific locations within the body. These interactions can be used to promote targeted drug release which we have recently applied to modified release oral liquids, mucoadhesive nasal sprays, and enhanced topical delivery.

Polysaccharide Extraction Characterisation and Application

Dr Smith’s group are also interested in the fundamental chemical and physical properties polysaccharides extracted from plants native to sub Saharan Africa. Funded by Royal Society (Newton Fellowships) this theme is designed to address issues of people within developing countries that cannot afford modern medicines due to the high cost of expensive imported raw materials. Many of these counties however, have an abundance of natural resources from which materials can be extracted that provide an equivalent or even an improved function. By revealing the chemical and physical properties of these polysaccharides we hope to promote their use in pharmaceutical and biomedical applications.  This work is carried out in collaboration with academics at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand and University of Jos Nigeria.

Other research commitments

  • Guest Editor for Food Hydrocolloids “Special Issue: Bridging the Divide between Food and Pharma”
  • Member of the editorial board for the Journal of Biomaterials Applications, British Journal of Pharmacy and Drug Delivery Letters
  • Co-founder and Chair 1st UK Hydrocolloids Symposium
  • Reviewer for more than thirty journals
  • Reviewer for the MRC, Orthopaedic Research UK, EU FP7
  • Member of UK Society for Biomaterials
  • Member of UKICRS


Please see Dr Smith's Research Page for more details

Research Degree Supervision

Opportunities for self funded PhD studies are available in the following research areas

  • Injectable cell culture substrates for tissue regeneration
  • Development of modified release oral liquid formulations for pediatrics
  • Developing bioresponsive hydrogels for tissue engineering applications

Applications are welcome from potential students with an interest in formulation development or the physicochemical properties of macromolecules.

Postgraduate research opportunities with Dr Alan Smith

Teaching and Professional Activities

  • Dr Smith is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, his current teaching responsibilities include:
  • Yr 4 MPharm year tutor
  • Module co-ordinator and Lecturer in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology and Advanced Drug Delivery for 4th year MPharm Drug design and Development module (M-Level)
  • Lecturer in Formulation and Pharmaceutics (Colloids and Rheology) 3rd Year MPharm (H-Level)
  • Lecturer MSc Analytical and Pharmaceutical Science (Particle Sizing and Rheology) (M-Level)
  • Lecturer in Critical Analysis for research projects 3rd Year MPharm (H-Level)
  • Visiting Lecturer in Pharmaceutical Containment at the University of Birmingham (M-Level)

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