When it comes to examples of human innovation, the wheel is a fan favorite.
In a more simplistic telling of history, Homo sapiens invented the wheel and from there were empowered to advance both agriculture and transportation. However, most archeologists agree that the timeline is a bit more protracted than this succinct version of the wheel’s origin implies.
While the details of the wheel’s history aren’t set in stone, excavations have led archeologists to believe that wheels first appeared in Mesopotamia around 3500 B.C. to help potters shape clay.
Which means, the first wheel was more likely a tool, rather than an end product. Getting a wheel to rotate while supporting weight for the purpose of transport — and thus exist as standalone product — was a more complex undertaking and likely came much later in time.
Though the wheel is often heralded as the primordial example of humankind’s ingenuity, tools, including knives, hammers and even sewing needles, were around far before the wheel began turning on its axle. And in my opinion, tools don’t get enough credit for their roles in history.
To that end, this issue’s cover story is dedicated to the tools — and the toolmakers who forged them.
Our annual Pharma Innovation Awards were fashioned over a decade ago in a conference room in Schaumburg, Illinois (archeologists recently found evidence of this in a 2013 print issue buried in the depths of my office closet). Inspired by product origin stories shared with us on tradeshow floors, the awards aim to tell the story-behind-the-story and celebrate the equipment and technologies that help drugmakers continue to produce lifesaving therapies.
Having overseen this awards program for years, I’ve come to appreciate that most ‘innovations’ are not earth shattering. In fact, some of the best ideas that have rolled across our desks have offered incremental, yet sorely needed, improvements to existing technology. In much the same way that ancient tools evolved to meet the needs of their users, pharma equipment providers have adapted their technologies to serve the modern needs of the pharma industry.
From seamlessly automating previously manual tasks to easing the burdens of scale-up to tackling the unique complexities of today’s advanced therapeutics, our winners have been hammering away with the end goal of putting stronger solutions into the hands of drugmakers.
Please join us in celebrating this year’s winners: 13 products spanning across six different categories being highlighted for their robust contributions to keeping the wheels of pharmaceutical progress spinning forward.