The University of Pécs has developed a revolutionary new hand sanitizer gel (previously reported in detail in this article by UnivPécs). Fatima Nmar, a pharmacy student in her final year, who won first place in the Faculty of Pharmacy's Dean's Thesis competition in 2021, also works on the team developing the gel.
How did you get involved in the research programme?
In my third year, I was still in the Pharmaceutical Technology course in 2019, when I was approached by Ámanné Dr. Anna Takácsi-Nagy, who asked me if I would be interested in the possibility of doing a TDK essay (Undergraduate Research Society). To be honest, I did not know what I was getting into at the beginning.
I have always been treated as a partner within the team
and my tasks were set in such a way that I could carry them out. For being a student, I spent a relatively long time working on this research: I was involved in the formulation at the beginning, and also in the microbiological analysis. Later, when we included volunteers in the testing, I was involved in both the questionnaire design and the evaluation. Finally, the stability study became my responsibility.
What is your award-winning thesis about?
The title of my thesis is “Stability Testing of a Hand Sanitizer Gel Containing Natural Extracts”. I analyzed what would happen to the finished product during use. This is a crucial step for any pharmaceutical product. How and what kind of testing is done depends on the nature of the substance. In the case of the gel, for example, I have tested how it spreads and disperses on the back of the hand, how well it washes off, and how the active ingredient dissolves and diffuses. I have also looked at questions of material structure and how much of the active ingredient remains in our formulation over time, under different storage conditions.
What does this recognition entail?
You can apply for it by writing your TDK essay. If you are awarded a place in this competition, it is accepted as a thesis, and if the place is accompanied by a prize-winning presentation at university or national level, you do not even have to defend the thesis, you automatically get an A. I managed to do that. It feels great, I can hardly believe it!
I understand that the UP patented gel will not be on the shelves until next year. What do you think of the hand sanitizers that are already available?
I think washing our hands properly would be the most critical. As far as hand sanitizers are concerned, there are a lot of videos circulating on the internet that supposedly teach you how to make hand sanitiser at home. I find these extremely problematic because they are not necessarily professionally produced. It is one thing if it causes irritation, but
if it is not effective and we think it is, it gives a false sense of security.
I have also gone into this in detail in my thesis. The products available in the shops are safe - you just have to be careful to choose those that have a virucidal effect as well.
How does it feel to be involved in research that will result in an actual product?
We almost cannot believe it! There is a lot of work involved, and as a student, I was only exposed to a small part of it.
The fact that it will be commercialized will be a great source of pride for the research team as well as the faculty.
You are in your fifth year. What are your plans?
That is a very difficult question, I do not know yet. I have thought about doing a PhD - but I do not dare to plan so far ahead yet, because I have to pass the state exam first. I want to try different things, that is for sure.
Interview: Éva Harka, UnivPécs
Photo: Szabolcs Csortos, UnivPécs