Interview with Jane Li

Find out more about Jane Li, R&D pharmaceutical crystal engineer and member of the CrystEngComm Editorial Board

27 January 2010

Jane Li is a distinguished scientist at Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals. She works on crystalline pharmaceutical materials and she is also a member of the CrystEngComm Editorial Board.

Why did you to become a scientist?

When I was in school, scientific subjects came naturally to me. I am curious about how things work and develop, and interested in discovery and improvement.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

I have been working on crystalline pharmaceutical materials for over 15 years; pharmaceutical crystals are more complex and challenging because of their applications and limitations. In the last year, my research interests have expanded into amorphous dispersion and material characterization in terms of formulation development.

What do you think will be the next big breakthrough in your field?

Pharmaceutical development will continue to explore new technologies in drug delivery. In view of increasing number of large molecules entering pharmaceutical R&D, the next breakthrough will be innovative technologies in cost-effective delivery of proteins and other biomolecules.

How do you think crystal engineering will develop in the next five years?

I am pretty confident that crystal engineering will allow the discovery of new materials tailored to target specific applications in pharmaceutical and biotechnology fields.

What would you do if you weren’t a scientist?

I would like to be a designer.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?

I would say that it is the constant technical challenges in discovering and understanding new crystalline and/or amorphous materials and their applications for developing new drugs. Every drug molecule has its own characteristics and so has its crystalline salts and cocrystals. As a result, I am working with something new all the time and I really appreciate when the solutions I came up help to solve a problem and to advance drug candidates into the next stage.

What is the secret to a successful research group?

I think that the most important thing is to stimulate the interest and passion of each group member and create an environment of freedom and tolerance, but this is not so easy to achieve.

What achievement are you most proud of?

My patent in discovery and characterization of new crystal forms of Azithromycin which have created opportunities to challenge other patents. Also, my work on cocrystals in using 15N NMR to study the proton transfer behavior between base and acid.

What advice would you give to a young scientist?

A solid understanding of fundamental principles, keen observation and creative thinking are critical to succeed.

Can you tell us a little known fact about yourself?

I love nature and travel, appreciate good food, and wish I had had a chance to learn to play an instrument when I was young growing up in China.

Related links:

Mapping out the synthetic landscape for re-crystallization, co-crystallization and salt formation
Christer B. Aakeröy, Arbin Rajbanshi, Z. Jane Li and John Desper
CrystEngComm, 2010, 12, 4231-4239

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