It started in the 17th century:
Alchemy, a medieval chemical science and speculative philosophy aiming to achieve the transmutation of the base metals into gold, searching for a universal cure for disease and indefinitely prolonging life, not considered a science by many, gradually became the basis for the development of chemistry into the 17th century. However, perceivable impact of chemistry on humanity, through its smaller incremental innovation, started being felt only in the second half of the 19th century.
Chemistry – an interface between the physical world and humanity:
Experts in this field often opine that the current form of human civilization has been made possible, to a great extent, through significant advancement of such innovation in chemistry and its role in modern technology. Chemistry is indeed an interface between the physical world on the one hand and the humanity on the other.
Getting a perspective of resource and time requirements for such initiatives:
Is there any similarity between development of pharmaceutical chemistry and IT software?
Now a days, one finds a striking similarity between small incremental innovation in IT software and the same in pharmaceutical chemistry. Both are creative and belong to the knowledge economy. Scientists in both the communities try to generate innovative ideas, which can lead to their effective commercialization.
Resource requirements for these two are strikingly different:
However, the nature of the commercialization process of these two sciences, though seemingly similar in terms of innovativeness, is indeed quite different. In the software community, two people can implement an idea with minimal resource requirement and could end up with a profitable commercialized product, without much difficulty. In contrast, two chemists may come up with a brilliant idea, which in many cases, may require significant investment of resources much before to even think to get the initial product commercialized. Subsequent steps of scaling up will be a separate issue altogether, with more resource commitment.
The process of commercialization of smaller incremental innovation in pharmaceutical chemistry is much longer:
As we all know, the process of commercialization of incremental innovation in chemistry takes a much longer time scale, as these are not usually spare time projects, unlike computer softwares. The cost involved in testing out and implementing a new idea in chemistry is very high and may not even be possible without any robust institutional backing.
Target inexpensive smaller incremental innovation in pharmaceutical chemistry:
Some illustrative examples of such smaller incremental innovation in chemistry are as follows:
1. Development of pharmaceutical co-crystals
2. Merger of chemistry of traditional and modern medicines for synergy in both efficacy and safety
3. Chemical technology switch: taking technology of one field and transferring it to a different field to get a new drug substance
4. Application of polymorphic chemistry in drug discovery.
The process has begun:
The chemistry department of Oxford University, U.K, which is incidentally the biggest chemistry department of the western world, has made significant advances in commercializing incremental innovation in chemistry. Among many, they created and commercialized the following three entities through such incremental innovation:
• Oxford Molecular
• Oxford Assymetry
The Indian experience:
Despite all challenges, in India, as well, the commercialization process of smaller incremental innovation in chemistry has already begun. The Chemistry Department of the University of Delhi has developed 11 patentable technologies for improved drug delivery system using nano-particles. One of such technologies was development of ‘smart’ hydrogel nano-particles for encapsulating water-soluble drugs. This technology was sold to Dabur Research Foundation in 1999.
Another nano-particle drug delivery technology in opthalmogy area was also commercialized by transferring it to Chandigarh based Panacea Biotech Ltd.
This process is expected to gain momentum in our country too, contributing significantly to the progress of the healthcare sector of the nation. “Commercializing smaller incremental innovation in Pharmaceutical Chemistry”, I reckon, will play a key role in providing affordable modern medicines to a vast majority of the population, as India transforms itself into a knowledge superpower.
By Tapan Ray
Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.