The bionic man…
Readers of a certain age may remember an old movie called Fantastic Voyage, based on the fanciful notion of scientists travelling inside the human body to deliver drugs and cure illness. Today, science fiction has become science fact through bioabsorbable drug delivery systems that deliver medicine to patients with minimum disruption. So how did we get to this point - and what’s next?
What if you could bring together two utterly different branches of science to help people cope better with major illness?
For years DSM has been a leader in performance materials (or polymers) for use in consumer products. Then, several years ago, DSM asked the question: If we can put performance materials in a car, why not a person?
The concept is simple: A material implant slowly delivers medication to a specific organ until all the medicine is gone…and then the body simply and safety absorbs it - with no need for surgery or medical procedures.
If successful, their polymeric implant could eventually eliminate the need for the daily application of eye drops for millions of glaucoma sufferers in Europe alone. But to eliminate that particular headache for patients, the team at DSM had to deal with a few of their own first.
The reason why big companies sometimes struggle to cross-pollinate their knowledge, says Jens, is that you not only need to find the right people (there are more than 1900 scientists in DSM) but also the right way to communicate with them - and bridge that knowledge gap.
“The truth is that science is not a common language – certainly when taken to the very, very advanced level that we require. Once we’d found the right colleagues to help us we had to bring the conversation down to an almost high school level – and then bring it back up again.”
It's this ability to connect and then ‘translate’ as he calls it that has led to human clinical trials. And it’s this capability that will increasingly define DSM’s ability to produce science that has a positive effect on peoples’ lives. A far-sighted approach indeed…