As it turns out, sci-fi movies may have overhyped ‘alien encounters’ as the most menacing threat astronauts square off against during space exploration.
Far more intimidating are the dangers posed by cosmic radiation, toxic lunar dust, lack of gravity and temperatures that drop to a brisk minus 455 degrees Fahrenheit. And I’d be remiss to not mention the 27,000 pieces of floating space debris just waiting to collide with spacecrafts.
The hazards faced by astronauts are so abundant that NASA’s Human Research Program had to classify them into categories in order to properly investigate and attempt to counter them. The five groups outlined are linked with over 30 documented human health risks.
Even after astronauts are safely back home, space travel continues to adversely affect their health. Astronauts returned from space missions have presented with cardiovascular disease, liver dysfunction, vision impairment, respiratory problems, geriatric-type issues like bone loss and cognitive deficiencies, and cancer.
This begs the question: If space is such a vast risk-laden frontier, why don’t we just keep our boots on the Earth?
As Neil Armstrong (maybe) once said, “There can be no great accomplishment without risk.”
Six decades of space travel has led to advancements in medicine, public safety, energy, environmental science, IT, telecommunications, transportation and countless other fields. NASA has also helped to develop over 2,000 ‘spin-off technologies.’ Products like water-purification systems, solar panels, Cochlear implants, LASIK — and even DustBusters — have roots in space programs.
There are still many great accomplishments to be made in the pharma industry. And CDMOs are a critical part of the flight plan. This month’s cover story — part of our annual contract manufacturing spotlight — profiles three CDMOs willing to take on projects with higher chances of failure, boldly pushing the boundaries of the ‘risk-averse’ pharma industry.
Through discussions with Emergent BioSolutions, AGC Biologics and Sterling Pharma Solutions, we’ve addressed just a few of the industry paths less traveled: pandemic response, orphan drug development, improving global access to drugs with more efficient and sustainable drug development — as well as the successes and stumbles that come with these types of journeys.
In both space exploration and pharma manufacturing, timelines matter. While NASA has pushed back the White House’s ambitious 2024 deadline for returning American astronauts to the moon’s surface by at least a year, the tight turnaround proves space exploration is still quite exigent. Similarly, as the pandemic took hold of the world, the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed initiative put a rush on the pharma industry’s development and manufacturing processes. Like astronauts ready to be launched into space, the contract manufacturing industry suited up — not just to meet surging capacity needs but to leverage technology and development expertise.
Today’s new world necessitates that the pharma industry takes leaps instead of steps and to do so, pharma companies will need to continue to partner with CDMOs willing to go above and beyond.