Modern medicine has an astounding impact on our lives—from easing the pain of a migraine or clearing an ear infection, to saving lives and ending epidemics. Incredible pharmaceutical advancements have been made over the past few decades, but these innovations don't happen quickly. In fact, it takes an average of 12 years for a drug to make it from the research lab to your medicine cabinet. At the same time, however, longer lifespans, changing lifestyles, complex environmental factors and rapid urbanization have escalated the need for the quick development and deployment of safe, new treatments to help manage ever-evolving diseases and expectations.
Ebola: A global crisis
Consider the recent Ebola outbreak that occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The outbreak began in May 2018, and there was fear that it could spread to the capital, Kinshasa, home to more than 10 million people. A dedicated coalition of private and public partners acted quickly to mobilize deployment of Merck’s V920 vaccine, also known as the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine. This vaccine, which went into development in 2014, was actually based on a vaccine that had been created by the Canadian government nearly 10 years earlier.
The team worked quickly to distribute the vaccine—a challenging mission that required military-like planning. Soon after, on July 24, 2018, the outbreak was declared over. This rapid resolution to a potential crisis was truly an incredible effort by all involved and a hopeful moment for the global health community, as the vaccine likely saved thousands of people. Sadly, before the outbreak was extinguished, it claimed 33 lives; however, this was a vast improvement compared to the 2014 outbreak, which lasted nearly two years and killed 11,000 people.
Despite the quick resolution, another Ebola outbreak was declared in the DRC just a few days later, more than 1,500 miles from where the original outbreak occurred. It was recently confirmed that this new outbreak is from a similar strain of Ebola and the rVSV-ZEEBOV vaccine is likely to be effective there as well. However, given this demonstration of the rapid evolution and spread of Ebola, it’s likely the health community's approach will need to continue evolving and new treatments will be needed to keep pace with this devastating virus.
In the case of high-risk diseases such as Ebola, the current 12-year timeframe for development of new medicines can result in many lost lives. Taking advantage of all opportunities to shorten this development cycle is critical to global health. So, how can the development of safe, new life-saving treatments be accelerated?
CAS has been a leading innovator in the field of scientific information for more than 110 years. We believe that empowering researchers to more efficiently build on each other’s success, by enhancing access to and insight derived from globally published science, may be the single largest opportunity to accelerate the overall speed of innovation in fields from pharmaceuticals to polymer science. Every day, CAS scientists and technologists strive to achieve that goal in numerous ways.
Better data make global research accessible
The amount of data being produced by the global research community today can be overwhelming. Consider, for example, that China published more than 230,000 scientific papers in 2017 alone. To drive the speed of game-changing discoveries, we need to help researchers make the most of the wealth of information available worldwide, and within the walls of their own organizations. This means identifying how to better organize data so that researchers can easily mine and extract key information from studies.
Making the diverse global literature more accessible, researchers can understand information not originally published in their native language. At CAS, we leverage the expertise of our team of scientists, who collectively speak more than 50 languages, and technologists, who have deep knowledge of data modelling for sci-tech information, to curate and index the latest scientific content from around the globe so that mission-critical information can be quickly found and rendered into actionable insights.
Better technology speeds insight
Organizing information is a key first step, but expediting innovation also requires next level search solutions that get researchers to the answers and insights they need faster. Solutions, like SciFindern, accelerate research by streamlining search results and pinpointing the most valuable information with a novel chemically intelligent relevance engine—helping innovators know exactly where to start. Additionally, emerging analytics technologies, like network analysis, are revolutionizing the research process by helping us identify patterns and insights from large volumes of data that can’t be seen by human eyes alone.
Better collaboration connects disparate knowledge
Finally, solutions that foster more efficient, effective collaboration are essential. Whether facing a crisis, such as a global threat like Ebola, or trying to manage research projects in a large R&D company with sites spread across the globe, there is a great need for knowledge sharing. Rather than start from scratch, researchers can use past findings and leverage expertise and connections within their research community to guide new discoveries.
A critical challenge, however, is enabling secure knowledge sharing that can make unpublished and sometimes highly confidential data, such as patient information from clinical trials, accessible in a way that ensures a diverse group of collaborators can have confidence in maintaining data privacy. Overcoming these challenges will further enable research progress.
Evolving challenges, inspiring solutions
There is no question that just as quickly as researchers are able to overcome a threat such as Ebola, a new challenge will emerge to take its place. There will always be new mysteries to feed our scientific curiosity and crises to motivate our progress. However, as the challenges we face evolve, the one constant is that the power of human intelligence multiplies when fed by a community of others working on the same challenges. At CAS, we take pride in our role in helping to connect and empower that global research community and fulfill the ACS mission of improving people's lives through the transforming power of chemistry.
Ready to accelerate your research outcomes? CAS can help. Learn how.