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Biopharmaceuticals, Discovery, Design and Delivery (BDDD)


The Biopharmaceuticals: Design, Discovery and Delivery (BDDD) program brings together researchers who focus their activities on enabling technologies applied in pharmaceutical R&D. The program encompasses activities in the fields of drug discovery, design, administration and delivery, toxicology as well as production. The research covers a broad spectrum of activities, ensuring the research has a true translational character. Next to a focus on biopharmaceuticals, the program has recently incorporated several new research activities that find their origin in classical small molecule drugs (both organic and inorganic). These activities help to strengthen the collaboration with the Medicinal Chemistry & Bioanalysis (MCB) program.  

As the BDDD program focuses on enabling technologies, it has a central function in GUIDE, having collaborations with numerous disease-related programs and other pre-clinical and (clinical) research groups from the UMCG. High-profile collaborations exist with departments such as Oncology, Pulmonology, Surgery, Gastroenterology and Hepatology. These collaborations are essential and an important aspect of daily research routine: they ensure the translational character of the research and provide the program’s researchers with real-life feedback on their research efforts, thereby guiding future research. Moreover, these collaborations facilitate full drug development up to market introduction, which increases the societal and economic value of the program’s research.

Scientific and Societal output    Principal Investigators   Programme Leaders   Description of the Programme  

The BDDD division explores innovative approaches and technologies oriented towards the early phase of drug development up to the use of these approaches in practice. The focus is on fundamental research into the discovery and design of biopharmaceuticals – over the last decades these medicinal products have grown enormously in importance. Moreover, research is performed on the design and administration of small molecular entities. The division uniquely combines fundamental and translational research on drug safety, targeting, delivery, biopharmacy and pharmacokinetics, from bench to bedside and vice versa. Furthermore, it studies fundamental aspects of biotechnological production processes and the design, application and production of dosage forms. The program is placed in a central position in drug-related research at the University of Groningen, bridging the gap between the fundamental research performed at the Faculty of Mathematical and Natural Sciences (FMNS) and the applied research performed at the Medical Faculty.

By the end of 2014, the program included 16 researchers at the PI level (3.81 FTE) and 14 postdocs from four different research groups, and one PI coming from the UMCG hospital pharmacy. Although all researchers are involved in drug development research, they have a diverse background, which reflects the multidisciplinary approach within the program’s research – an approach that is inevitable for obtaining success in modern drug development. The researchers are organized in four research groups, between which intensive collaboration exists. These four research groups are:

  • Pharmaceutical Biology studies biological systems. These systems include microbial and plant cells and enzymes as sources of innovative targets and drugs, as well as a means for (bio-)synthesis.
  • Pharmaceutical Gene Modulation focuses its activities on the development of advanced therapeutic systems and small molecule drugs for the specific delivery and regulation of genes.
  • Pharmacokinetics, Toxicology and Targeting explores innovative drug delivery tools, including nanocarriers, for cell-specific targeting of drugs and therapeutic proteins, their underlying PK-PD and their safety. In addition, innovative methods for ADME and toxicological predictions are developed using human tissue.
  • Pharmaceutical Technology and Biopharmacy performs research on dosage forms and their interaction with the living organism and explores human tissue-based translational models used in drug development.

The major research topics of the program are schematically presented in the figure below, which highlights the fact that the activities in the program cover aspects of both drug discovery as well as drug development. The colors used to describe the topics relate to the various research groups.


There is an urgent societal and medical need for improved drugs and for a more efficient development track for these new products. This includes a reduction in the numbers of animals used in drug development and an improvement in the predictive value of the model systems used in early stage drug testing. The BDDD program strives to bring together researchers who focus their activities on enabling technologies applied in pharmaceutical R&D. The program contributes to a better and more efficient development of new drugs and therapeutic concepts by exploring the various fundamental and applied aspects of drug research and development. The final aim of the program is to generate societal and economic value through the innovative drug concepts that are studied. It does so by developing improved drugs and technologies used in drug development, production, administration and safety assessment.  

Collaborations with other researchers within the GUIDE program are strongly encouraged, leading to the exchange of essential knowledge of and experience in various aspects of drug development.

The research activities of the program contribute to the “Healthy Ageing” program of the University of Groningen by exploring innovative therapies for age-related diseases, such as fibrotic diseases, COPD and cancer.  

The program aims to perform top-notch research, thereby offering an attractive environment for young talented researchers, who will be able to contribute to the program’s objectives while at the same time being able to follow their personal scientific ambitions.

Relevance to Healthy Ageing  

The research activities of the program are all intended to strengthen the Healthy Ageing program of the University of Groningen. Research on new drugs is by definition highly relevant to the ageing population. On average more than 70% of the drugs used in society are used by the elderly. Moreover, many of the diseases that are the focus of the research in the program are age-related; examples are cancer, COPD, fibrosis, Parkinsonism and influenza, all diseases that become increasingly problematic in an ageing population.