Dr. Hasan Mahmud Reza is the Chairman of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at North South University. He also serves as the Acting Dean of the School of Health and Life Sciences. He previously served as a lecturer in Khulna University and an Assistant Professor at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST), Japan. Dr. Reza was a Research Scientist at Singapore Eye Research Institute under the National University of Singapore. He currently has more than 50 international publications.
What are the challenges of introducing and maintaining and international standard of pharmaceutical education in Bangladesh?
A large number of students are interested in pharmacy education at the tertiary level. The real challenge is to provide quality education that requires numerous provisions to be substantial. There is a shortage of qualified faculty members. Furthermore, setting up laboratories with necessary equipment, their subsequent maintenance and conducting practical classes demand a considerably high budget that many universities cannot afford. The pharmacists of Bangladesh mostly work in the industrial sector, which is not the prime area for pharmacists working outside the country. Given this circumstance, the Pharmacy Council necessarily guides students with knowledge and curriculum regarding that particular aspect of the subject. Therefore, it differs from international standards to some extent. We also do not have facilities in hospitals or drug stores where our pharmacy students can have essential hands-on learning to become competent pharmacists. Thus, introducing a global standard syllabus is somewhat difficult in Bangladesh.
What are some of the unique experiences that your department provides for students?
Our students take lessons from experienced faculty members who have acquired education at national and international levels making them thoroughly knowledgeable. We have state-of-the-art teaching and research laboratories, which are all equipped with the necessary instruments for undergraduate practical classes. The research laboratories are again housed with modern high-tech tools for cutting-edge research. Our department owns a Mini R&D laboratory for pharmaceutical manufacturing and quality control, which is first of its kind in Bangladesh. We also have our own animal house with mice and rats implemented in pharmaceutical research. All of our students must conduct significant research under the supervision of our faculty members who are extensively trained in laboratory research. We arrange subject-related seminars as well as awareness programs to provide and enhance knowledge within the numerous fields. Moreover, we organize fairs by bringing people and products from the pharmaceutical industries as well as the related disciplines to effectively guide our student in the career paths of their interest. Finally, our interactive classroom teachings and discussions instill moral values and impart practical communication skills in our students to make them confident and competent graduates.
There is a necessity for labs and practical applications in the context of research work. Could you elaborate on the details of the laboratories of your department?
To further elaborate, nine of our labs are for teaching, and four are allocated for advanced research. The Mini R&D and Pharmaceutical Technology laboratories provide students with hands-on experience in manufacturing tablet, capsule, suppositories, and liquid dosage forms along with toiletries. Apart from standard organic, inorganic, physiology, pharmacognosy and microbiology labs, we have a rich analytical lab housed with HPLC, LC-MS, GC-MS, IR and UV spectrophotometers. Our advanced pharmacology lab is equipped with laggendorff, fraction collector, and ultrasonicator which students are allowed to handle under the supervision of our skilled lab instructors. The molecular pharmacology lab houses all necessary equipment for DNA work, tissue processing and cell culture. Utilizing all the facilities, our dedicated faculty members, and students are doing world-class research and making publications in international peer-reviewed journals on a regular basis.
Given the prosperity of production, marketing, research and upcoming hospital pharmacy, how is your department helping students find the pharmaceutical line that they would like to work in? What are the preparatory and educational provisions that you have taken to ensure that they are prepared for the job market?
We have recently revised our curriculum, creating a syllabus that meticulously entails the multifaceted science of pharmacy. Many new courses have been included notably pharmacotherapy, hospital and community pharmacy, drug dispensing, molecular diagnostics and numerous general education classes. The primary focus has been given on courses like pharmaceutical technology, biotechnology, biopharmaceutics, pharmacology, marketing and management, GMP and regulatory affairs. Thus our pharmacists will be able to serve confidently in all the areas that you have mentioned.
We sometimes invite people who have extensive experience in different departments of pharmaceutical industries, marketing, sales and medical departments to share their experience and views with our students. This sheds light on preparing our pharmacists for the job market. I am elated to acknowledge the support of the pharmaceutical industry as it generously allows our students to undertake a month-long internship, which is necessary for clarifying many technical drawbacks of our students.
What is the current R&D scenario of the pharmaceutical market in Bangladesh? How is your department working on preparing students for these sectors?
We have been manufacturing pharmaceutical products using generic drugs in agreement with the BP or the US. However, many INN drugs are now in the market, and this trend demands lots of research.
Considering this fact, several industries have set up their R&D facilities to conduct some research in making pharmaceutical dosage forms while a larger number of manufacturers are still paying no heed. Interestingly, a few companies have set up their production line of biotechnology products, and they have housed newer types of research and development facilities. Therefore, this field is expanding, providing a drive for new drug development in an unexplored area. Our students’ research work in the major areas of microbiology, pharmacology, and pharmaceutics prepare them for the R&D sector.
You have had extensive academic experiences from abroad. What educational ideas or methods do you think need to be incorporated into the education system here?
The pharmaceutical industry is experiencing a transition from generating small molecules to biotechnology products like peptides and proteins for therapy. To address many issues related to biotechnology products, particular attention should be given to our most promising graduates in this field. Moreover, existing molecules may be studied further to understand new indications against many diseases. All these require extensive research, and I believe, sufficient research facilities should be arranged in education institutes. Continuous research is necessary to discover new drug molecules and develop cost-effective newer dosage forms with better efficacy and lesser side effects.
How does exemption of TRIPS benefit our people and pharma industries?
The TRIPS exemption on pharmaceutical products in Bangladesh and other LDC countries has been extended until 2033. This means Bangladesh does not require to pay the loyalty for patented drugs, and the price of medicines will remain. Hence our people will be able to buy the life-saving drugs at lower prices to protect their health. Since Bangladesh has already developed the secure infrastructure for pharmaceutical production, the country can now make the best use of this waiver. We can produce patented products and export them. If we concentrate on producing raw materials of many patented drugs, we will be able to export these raw materials to many foreign countries as many of these drugs will fall in generic categories after a few years.