Creating the Future
In my previous letter, I said that I had asked chairs of CRS committees and the presidents of local chapters what questions are on the lips of CRS members. One question was: “What is my vision of where delivery science and technology will be heading in the next 10 years, and what will be the role of the CRS in supporting and encouraging these developments?” You might reasonably say that my crystal ball is as cloudy and fuzzy as any other CRS member’s, and you would be right—so here is my philosophy rather than my vision.
To some degree at least, we can and do rationally create the future, but the complexity of possible interactions between scientific disciplines and collaborators means we don’t have a road map. It is more a compass direction. Or, it is like Adam Smith’s “invisible hand of the market,” where the efforts and interplay of individuals, driven not necessarily by self-interest but by scientific curiosity, lead to the development of ever-better delivery technologies that benefit society. CRS is not an “invisible hand” in this but rather a highly visible and central influence in informing, supporting, and encouraging delivery science and technology.
Leading the Way in Delivery Science and Technology
The BSA is working hard on identifying current trends and research in the fundamental sciences that will underpin our science and technology. I look forward to sharing the BSA’s report with the membership. In thinking about the fundamental science, I am reminded that October is Nobel Prize month, and it is readily apparent how the science of this year’s laureates is informing our current delivery science and technology.
The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2013 was awarded to James E. Rothman, Randy W. Schekman, and Thomas C. Sudhof for their work on the molecular principles that govern how vesicles deliver their cargo to the right place at the right time in the cell. Schekman elucidated the set of genes required for vesicle trafficking; Rothman unravelled the protein machinery that enables vesicles to fuse with their specific targets; and Sudhof elucidated signals to instruct vesicles to release the cargo when required. Using a phrase that could have come from CRS, one press release reported: “timing and location are everything.” Since most of their work was published in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, this material is now standard in cellbiology textbooks, but it is fundamental to the research of many of our members who seek to understand how to deliver bioactives using nanosystems.
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2013 was awarded to Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt, and Arieh Warshel for their work, which started in the 1970s, on modelling molecular processes using quantum physics calculations at reaction sites but classical physics approaches where possible, to reduce the prodigious computing time required even on supercomputers. Levitt writes about his dream to simulate a living organism on a molecular level. I know that some of our members are using molecular modelling to understand interaction of targeted nanoparticles with cell surface receptors. What is the fundamental research being done at present by the Nobel laureates of the 2020s?
Recently, I had the privilege to visit one of the leading research universities in Malaysia, a country of 30 million people, which is making huge investments in education. Nearby countries include Indonesia, the fourth largest country in the world based on population (200 million), and Singapore (5.4 million). Other Southeast Asian countries include Vietnam (89 million), Thailand (66 million), Cambodia (15 million), Laos (6.6 million), and the Philippines (98 million), giving a combined population of about 500 million or 7% of the world’s population. Perhaps surprisingly, CRS does not have a local chapter in this region, a region that is growing rapidly in terms of education and research and that has an eye to some knowledge-based industries. As an organisation, we have both an opportunity and a responsibility to serve delivery scientists in this region, as in other regions. In this regard, our International Committee is charged with making recommendations of how chapters should be linked to the parent body, the Finance Committee is doing a feasibility study for an annual meeting in a non-European non-U.S. venue, the Satellite Meeting (& workshop) Committee is investigating running a satellite meeting in Asia, and there are several other work programs on issues that underpin these potential developments. I look forward to being able to announce these developments in due course.
CRS is in its fifth decade and is an organisation that is going places. I expect people will want to join our organisation not only to access the member services and the opportunities for sharing and promoting their science and technology but also for the global networking opportunities CRS provides. Nowadays, people travel for health tourism. I think the CRS membership card can be a passport for knowledge-sharing tourism.