This year the Board of Scientific Advisors (BSA) was given the demanding challenge of identifying emerging trends in CRS science and technology and also speculating on some possible “black swans” that might be over the horizon. By definition, black swans cannot be predicted, since they do not arise from trends in our discipline. They may arise from discoveries in fundamental sciences or perhaps from responses to unanticipated problems.
So the BSA concluded that we should not attempt to predict black swan events but rather build robustness to buffer against unforeseen potentially damaging events while being able to turn positive ones to our advantage. This sound advice will influence the thinking of CRS, and we will continue to develop a nimble organisation that can adapt rapidly and creatively to disruptive events—an organisation that is “built to last.”
In addressing their charge, the BSA took the approach of identifying the biological and technological barriers confronting us, particularly those barriers that, if overcome, would have a major impact. Major biological barriers include delivery of proteins to the brain and delivery of proteins by the oral route, the subject of a premeeting workshop at the CRS Annual Meeting in Chicago.
A major technological barrier is the need to address the challenges of manufacturing at a reasonable cost and to a high quality the sophisticated delivery systems we are creating in our labs. The unsolved problem of scale-up of high-quality multicomponent drug delivery systems calls for leadership from CRS scientists and technologists.
Members can learn more about some of these issues in the next CRS Newsletter.
The BSA members are not the only ones exercising their grey cells about the future. An article by Brambill et al. published in a special anniversary issue of the Journal of Controlled Release speculates on what a reader will find in the 2044 issue of JCR. What technologies will be leading the field? The writers speculate that nanoparticles will play a fundamental role in the future. Our BSA also sees this, perhaps building on our increasing understanding of some of nature’s nanoparticles (e.g., exosomes).
Returning to Our Roots
While marveling at these highly sophisticated approaches that promise to address problems in human healthcare and the demand for personalized medicines, there are huge challenges in other areas where our science and technology have contributions to make. These include areas such as healthcare in developing countries (single-shot vaccines, heat-stable vaccines, and better treatments for tropical diseases); agriculture (more efficient use of pesticides and fertilisers to minimize environmental contamination); and animal health (domestic pets, wildlife, and production animals).
CRS was founded by those with interests in agriculture and animal health. I have a photo of a young Nick Peppas and a young Bob Langer at an MIT summer session “Controlled Release Technology: Polymers in Medicine, Food, and Agriculture” in 1980. It might be argued that CRS has moved on from the problems in agriculture, animals, and the environment, having addressed them many years ago. However, our science has moved substantially since then, problems caused by more intensive farming have arisen, and society’s tolerance of collateral environmental damage has diminished. We need new science and technological solutions to these problems to feed the growing world population with less land (or sea for aquaculture) being used and with diminished environmental impacts.
My Recent Activities
I recently had the opportunity to visit China again and to attend the 3rd Asian Pharmaceutical Science Symposium in Shenyang. This conference was jointly organized by the CRS China Local Chapter. As your CRS president, my visit provided an opportunity to discuss the science and technology of CRS, highlight the advantages of membership, and talk with the current president of the local chapter, Prof. Weisan Pan of Shenyang Pharmaceutical University. The 2014 Annual Meeting of the CRS China Local Chapter will be held September 19–22 in Changsha. The development in CRS science in China is remarkable.
I have also contacted all local chapter presidents asking them to send me some photos and information on their chapters’ activities. The response was gratifying. The materials they provided will be used, in part, at the President’s Banquet in Chicago, which will include an entertaining and educational competition about CRS science and history. I hope you will be there to take part.
In some ways I feel like I am on the “home stretch” of my year as president. While it is true that the most important event in our calendar, the Chicago Annual Meeting, is still ahead, a huge amount has been done in building robustness into our organization, in strategising, and now in implementing plans. I look forward to sharing some of these developments with you in Chicago.