(Milan, 16-20 June 2019)
Christina Jayne Vanhinsbergh
PhD, University of Sheffield
My name is Christina and I am a PhD student at the University of Sheffield, UK. I work within the Chemical and Biological Engineering department of the University within Professor Mark Dickman’s research group. I am undertaking a CASE industrial PhD and work in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline. My PhD research focuses on optimising two-dimensional HPLC methods for analysis of oligonucleotide therapeutics and their manufacturing impurities. Oligonucleotide therapeutics are nucleic acid pharmaceuticals that interrupt gene expression by preventing translation of mRNA into protein. They work in a range of different ways; either utilising proteins such as the RNA induced silencing complex or other enzymes to facilitate the degradation of mRNA. Some also adopt 3D conformations to bind to ligands- similarly to antibodies, or stimulate the immune system.
Oligonucleotide therapeutics are made by solid phase synthesis, which leads to approximately 20% yield of oligonucleotide impurities. These impurities are failed sequences that are either too short, too long or structurally different to the target molecule. It is important to develop better ways to separate these impurities from the target molecule because improved characterisation of the batch enhances drug safety. My work demonstrates how 2D-LC can help to characterise these impurities by orthogonal separations.
I applied for the John Dolphin Fellowship funding to attend HPLC 2019 in Milan and present my PhD research at the conference. This year had three multidimensional chromatography sessions, showing that multidimensional chromatography is a popular technique. My presentation would engage the wider audience of the conference to show what 2D-LC can do for analysis of oligonucleotides. I also wanted to widen my network of multidimensional chromatographers and find out about other interesting advances in liquid chromatography. I was excited to attend two courses directed at students and early career researchers, and to catch up with those researchers already within my network.
Although I was a little nervous to speak in front of so many highly respected chromatographers, presenting at the conference would give me valuable experience for the future. I also feel that it is somewhat of a baptism for PhD students to orally present at larger meetings rather than submitting posters, as it shows how far you have progressed with your research and professional development.