Northumbria Pharma /  University of Sunderland KTP project team develops new hand gel.


KTP Associate: Emily Mason

KTP Project team: Northumbria Pharma/University of Sunderland. 

The Background

KTP Associate, Emily Mason (BSc Hons Biopharmaceutical Science), has been working with Northumbria Pharma and University of Sunderland on a KTP project aimed at creating a paraffin-free emollient for the treatment of eczema. It is estimated that approximately 15 million people in the UK suffer from eczema and most products to help treat it contain paraffin. However, the vapours produced when paraffin is applied are highly flammable, presenting a real safety risk.

The quest to find an alternative, paraffin-free product which is as efficacious is a challenge well suited to a KTP as it requires both industry and academic expertise. 

The Pivot to Fight Against COVID-19 

When the outbreak of COVID-19 happened, Northumbria Pharma decided to do all it could to help. Accelerating its supply of medicines to treat the symptoms of COVID-19, the company also started stocking and supplying PPE (personal protective equipment) and producing its own brand of alcohol hand sanitiser. 

Emily’s role in the company quickly pivoted to support these goals, working closely with company supervisor, Paul Watson, to source the raw materials and packaging for the hand gel. 

Emily also liaised with the contract manufacturer to ensure the product would be manufactured on time and even worked with the company’s artwork house to create the artwork for the gel. Her input also including working with consultants to get the product notified as a cosmetic for sale onto the UK market; and sourcing a laboratory to test the product to ensure it met the hygienic hand rub standards BS EN 1276 & 1500 (which means it is proven to kill 99.9% of bacteria and that it is antibacterial). 

The formulation passed both tests. Finally, Emily worked with a consultant to register the hand gel as a biocidal product as opposed to just a cosmetic one. 

The product is available to purchase through the company website and from Amazon. It has also helped the local community and has been supplied around the company’s shared building. The turnaround time for this was quick, and recently the product featured in a pharmaceutical distributor’s brochure as a product of the month. 

The KTP mechanism – with inputs from both commercial and academic teams – enables project teams to be responsive and flexible, as demonstrated here. Emily Mason summarises her experience as a KTP Associate as follows: “For me, the KTP role has really been a life changing opportunity…. I hadn’t heard of KTP until I applied for my role, however after the experience I have had I recommend it to anyone – especially graduates as it’s a great bridge between university and ‘real life’. It is certainly a decision I will never regret”.

Knowledge Transfer Adviser, John Clayton, added “Amongst many other qualities, KTP Associates need to demonstrate adaptability as they apply academic knowledge to solve real world challenges.  Emily has really demonstrated this ability to pivot. She is an exemplary KTP Associate and is gaining valuable commercial experience in advance of a real opportunity to remain with Northumbria Pharma in a high skill employee position at the end of the KTP”.

And the original KTP project? The product development is progressing well, and a paraffin-free formulation has now been developed. It is currently on a six-month stability study to prove it is chemically and microbially stable. If this is a successful trial, the product will be moving onto large scale manufacture for commercial release. 

Find out more about working as a KTP Associate here, and see the latest vacancies for KTP Associates here.


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