I jotted notes for this update as I flew back from the Partnership Opportunities for Drug Delivery (PODD) conference in Boston. CRS was well represented at this conference. The conference, now in its fourth year, was again chaired by Board of Scientific Advisors (BSA) member Barbara Lueckel. Participating in talks or panel discussions were Board members Andy Lewis and James Oxley, BSA member Richard Korsmeyer, and active CRS member Julia Rashba-Step. Elsewhere at the conference were many other CRS members. I got to participate in a “fireside chat” with Bob Langer that kicked off the conference; as part of that we included quotes from many people who worked with (and in most cases were mentored by) Bob, including Annual Meeting Program Committee (AMPC) chair Justin Hanes, head of the BSA Edith Mathiowitz, and former AMPC chair and current Annual Meeting Committee member Mark Prausnitz. Indeed, it is hard to imagine a group of people gathered anywhere to discuss delivery science that does not include a significant contingency of people connected to CRS.
I titled this document “Products!” partly because of the PODD conference and partly based on thoughts I have had over the last several months. Similar to all CRS members, I love science. But we all know the way to really impact the world is to have that science lead to products. How well do we at CRS do at that?
One of the wonderful aspects of CRS is the diversity of our membership. When I think about products at CRS, I always first think about our Consumer and Diversified Products (C&DP) group. As our C&DP Division—whose focus includes encapsulation and controlled release research for food, nutraceuticals, personal care, cosmetics, home care, agriculture, textiles, and coatings—this group even has “products” in their name! As you go through the next year at CRS, if C&DP is not your focus, reach out to this group, or attend one of the C&DP-related sessions or meetings at the annual meeting in 2015. When I interact with them, I am always impressed with the strong fundamental science coupled with a focus on getting products developed. I often think the sense of urgency is a reflection of the diversity of this sector and the shorter development times (as compared to drugs). Those of us who have spent most of our careers in the drug sector have much to learn from our C&DP colleagues.
As PODD is primarily a business conference, Barbara gave an update on major drug delivery deals over the last 12 months: Sanofi and MannKind on inhaled insulin as a headline for other inhalation advances, some increased efforts in ocular such as the Allergan/InnoCore license, targeted delivery to overcome the blood brain barrier such as the MedImmune/biOasis partnership, or device combinations such as the Mallinckrodt/Medtronic intrathecal delivery or Novo Nordisk/Zosano on microneedle delivery. We are in the midst of a robust and exciting time in drug delivery science!
I use on oft-repeated point that the research teams perform the first 95% of getting a product to market and then the development people perform the next 95%. We are often guilty of underestimating the role of our colleagues. My suggestion: use CRS to learn more about the entire process of getting products to market. Attend an industry session or the Soapbox Sessions at the CRS Annual Meeting, visit with our exhibitors, or use our membership directory to identify a person who can help turn your R&D idea into a product. It is important not to too early fall in love with your idea and think that all platforms can be products. Use our members to find final users of your potential product, and talk to several dozen rather than to a small team close to your research. Remember that regulatory agencies around the world do not approve raw materials or platforms but final products, so get their input early and often as you advance a product.
I have had the experience, likely common to others, of developing a new delivery platform. It was a research interest, and I pursued it for more than a year developing many product “ideas.” Later, with the formation of a cross-functional team focused on a single lead product, through advanced development, manufacturing, and clinical experience, the knowledge of the technology was accelerated much further than in the research phase.
I closed my last commentary looking forward to our annual meeting next year in Edinburgh with a Scottish joke. I will close this commentary with a quote from the famous Scottish author Sir Walter Scott, from his Antiquary: “It’s no fish ye’re buying—it’s men’s lives.”
The relevance of this quote, used by a fisherman’s wife when a buyer complained about the cost of fish, is to remind the buyer of the cost measured not in fish alone but in the hard work and danger her husband and sons experienced, even the risk of death, in catching those fish. So as we look to develop products, let us remember the cost and dedication, not measured in a single research or manufacturing step but the rich tapestry we all are fortunate to be part of in developing products. In Bob Langer’s discussion at PODD, he talked about the “stubbornness gene.” Let us renew our efforts to embrace that gene and to get more products to market, thereby not only benefiting those of us around the world interested in delivery science but the much larger population we all serve.