My Career at TEVA – Physical Characterization

Maša Rajic Linaric is an associate director at R&D TAPI Physical Characterization, researching solid-state active substances. Here, she reveals the secrets of her success, as well as a deep appreciation of the properties of chocolate.

My job is to deliver affordable active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) for medicines, with improved characteristics. As head of the department I am responsible for research results and the development of my team.

Active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) is a chemical substance or a drug responsible for pharmacological and therapeutic activities in the body. It is the main ingredient which treats a disease or a disorder.

API, however, cannot be used in its raw form. API in its raw or crude form may not show proper suitability towards pharmacodynamics (what the drug does to the body) and pharmacokinetics (what the body does to the drug) parameters. It is, therefore, combined with suitable excipients that do not have any pharmacological or therapeutic activities, but rather enhance the stability and activities of the API.

I never plan my day in detail, because my team and I work on multiple projects concurrently, so our days are filled with different challenges and things often change unexpectedly.

Our work might affect millions of human lives, and it is our privilege to collaborate every day with top scientists around the world. It is like being at the Olympic Games – except that when we win, everybody wins, and people lead healthier, longer lives.

To accomplish challenging goals you need to involve others, and respect them and their work. When you are open-minded and willing to cooperate, boundaries disappear. Scientific competence and expertise are a given in my job, but you can’t succeed without social intelligence; the ability to get on with people from all backgrounds is crucial in such a complex, multinational environment.    

Every day more and more women are achieving success in different areas. We live in a society where men are more easily accepted as business partners and get more readily acknowledged than women, but I have never encountered any negative sentiment at TEVA.

Persistence and love for your job is a winning combination – this is a lesson I learned at the beginning of my career, when I was lucky enough to work with wonderful people and first-class mentors, who were and still are an incredible inspiration.

My friends think my life is incredibly exciting and confusing, largely because when they call me I might be doing anything, anywhere in the world, from attending a wedding in India to preparing sesame seeds according to a special Israeli recipe.

If I were 16 again, I would tell my younger self never to give up on ideas that are good, that it is OK to make mistakes and fail from time to time, because what really counts is what we learn from our mistakes and how me manage to get back on our feet and move forward.

Like most scientists, I am driven by the new and the unknown. In basic research almost every new understanding is a scientific result, but it’s a different challenge to turn those research results into commercially competitive products.

Not everyone is up to the job of transforming and reshaping scientific journal theory, if needed, in order to turn an idea or a theory into a product. It’s a challenging, risky process, and a lot of people find it discouraging. But it’s only by accepting the challenge that we can hope to make a difference.

My team and I keep our eyes on the future and not only do we follow global scientific trends, but we sometimes set new ones. In our research, we should try to recognize new approach opportunities, and we often take risks and make instant decisions in the process. You are never completely ready for it, as there are too many unpredictable surprises and obstacles

Polymorphs, co-crystal forms are exciting, and my team developed a new one for a drug called Valsartan Sacubitril in just over two weeks. It was our first polymorph screening of cocrystal! The whole project was a risk, but we took that risk and proved that not only is the sky the limit, but that we can also move the sky!

Many materials/molecules are capable of solidifying in multiple crystalline forms. Polymorphy refers to different crystal forms of an organic molecule. Different polymorphs might have very different properties. A well-known example of two polymorphic forms is graphite and diamond: they are made of the same atoms, but their behaviour and appearance are a lot different!

Co-crystals are multicomponent systems composed of two or more interconnected molecules, where at least one component is the active substance. Co-crystals have gained considerable attention of the pharmaceutical industry because of their ability to enhance solubility and dissolution rate, as well as the physical stability of active pharmaceutical ingredients as compared to individual components. Current research in the generics industry is focused on products that have relatively poor solubility and low bioavailability. Such active substances are very demanding for the development of finished dosage forms with satisfactory level of drug release. One way of improving such active substances is to crystallize the active substance into a co-crystal. A successfully developed co-crystal would mean that a smaller dose of active substance in the final form would ultimately result in the same or even greater effect of the active substance in a patient’s body.

A co-crystal can also combine two different active substances, which enables patients to take fewer tablets and achieve the same therapeutic effect. Such combined final forms are selected based on patients’ indications by group, or to expand the scope of action compared to the individual action. These combined therapies often demonstrate improved efficacy and reduced side effects.

Recent knowledge of solid-state chemistry and discoveries gained in the past ten years have led to improvements in drug research methods and their quicker application in the manufacture of finished forms, alongside new technologies. The application and use of co-crystals in the market is regulated by agencies for medicinal products and devices worldwide, most actively by the American and the European agencies, which have recently published guidelines regarding the marketing and authorization of co-crystals

My favourite compound is chocolate, and I like it so much that I have analysed it using differential scanning calorimetry. I found that the most delicious one is thermodynamically not the most stable, but rather the stable polymorph V. I try not to overdo it, but I do like to treat myself to it from time to time.

Scientific research sounds really glamorous, but you need to back it up with knowledge and experience in order to turn it into something that is useful to customers. This part of my role can involve hundreds of people in research and production, and I try to give momentum to it whenever I can.

As a woman, I find family life gives me extra motivation to succeed. My husband Davor and I are proud parents of two boys, Marko and Jakov, and a baby girl, Bela. When I am at home with the kids, we love to do gardening and some cooking. Combining the roles of a wife and a mother with my professional life is an unbelievable source of new energy and inspiration.

My motto is be brave, believe in yourself and do not back down in the face of obstacles, because overcoming them is a crucial element of personal growth and development.

About the author

Maša Rajic Linaric

Maša Rajic Linaric

PLIVA, Manager Physical Characterisation

Chemistry has been my one and only love since high school. My first job as a junior researcher after graduating from the Faculty of Science was at the Marine Research and Special Technologies Institute where I began researching the stability of explosives and developed passion for solid-state chemistry. After my PhD, I started work in PLIVA where I have been involved in solid-state substance research for over 10 years.

Managing a department of 15 idea-driven enthusiasts is no easy task. Creative, inspiring work environment and my friendly, yet professional relationship with my coworkers contribute to the department’s results. Despite the challenging and stressful situations, we are heedful of our emotions, mutual support and personal development. Our team buildings exude passion and big-hearted winning mentality. Lifelong ties with ex colleagues speak to the quality of our companionship.

My family is my moral force. I am a proud mother of two boys and a baby girl.

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