You’ve got to be in love with the problem, not just the solution

Jens Thies

The bionic man…

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 both food and nutritional products; as well as 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?

Jens Thies

Today, bioresorbable implants from the Biomedical team at DSM are being used worldwide – not least to deliver drugs inside the human body (for example through heart stents) – lessening the risk of pain and the long recovery times associated with traditional invasive surgery.

Now this next generation of biomedical material solutions is being used to deliver drugs inside the human body. 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.

Fabulous news for people with heart problems. But what if you’re one of the millions of people suffering from a chronic eye disease like glaucoma?

This is the next big un-met societal need now being tackled by DSM via Jens Thies and his team. 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.

Eye examination

“Our big roadblock was that biomaterial resorbs six times slower in the eye than in, say, the heart,” Jens says. “We had to find a way around this new problem, because we couldn’t leave empty implants in the eye for that long.” The question was, how?

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 2,200 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. “We had to understand the disease and anatomy from scratch, and this is where our connections to other DSM scientists and external experts have been invaluable. We all went beyond our comfort zone.”

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…

Today's Pioneers