Controlled drug delivery systems have been successful in introducing improved formulations for better use of existing drugs and novel delivery of biologicals. The initial success of producing many oral products and some injectable depot formulations, however, reached a plateau, and the progress over the past three decades has been slow. This is likely due to the difficulties of formulating hydrophilic, high molecular weight drugs, such as proteins and nucleic acids, for targeting specific cells, month-long sustained delivery, and pulsatile release. Since the approaches that have served well for delivery of small molecules are not applicable to large molecules, it is time to develop new methods for biologicals. The process of developing future drug delivery systems, termed as the invention cycle, is proposed, and it starts with clearly defining the problems for developing certain formulations. Once the problems are well-defined, creative imagination examines all potential options and selects the best answer and alternatives. Then, innovation takes over to generate unique solutions for developing new formulations that resolve the previously identified problems. Ultimately, the new delivery systems will have to go through a translational process to produce the final formulations for clinical use. The invention cycle also emphasizes examining the reasons for success of certain formulations, not just the reasons for failure of many systems. Implementation of the new invention cycle requires new mechanisms of funding the younger generation of scientists and a new way of identifying their achievements, thereby releasing them from the burden of short-termism.
Keywords: drug delivery; imagination; innovation; invention cycle; translation.