Structured Innovation: TRIZ in the Pharmaceutical Industry!

TRIZ in the Pharmaceutical Industry!

. . . Continuing the series on Structured Innovation . . .

Lessons learned at the monthly meetings of My Executive Council (MEC) had not only been eye-opening for most members, pilule but had piqued their curiosity further.  Although they learned by using some of the TRIZ tools themselves as well as sharing their stories with each other, they knew that there was a lot more to learn.  Since TRIZ was also about understanding how a problem had been solved in other areas, they were anxious to hear about how TRIZ had been applied in other industries not represented by their group.  One of the suggestions from their consultant, Henrietta, had been to research uses of TRIZ.  So she shared a couple of pharmaceutical case studies presented at the European TRIZ Association TRIZ Futures Conference in Florence, Italy.

Reviewing case studies demonstrates that the skills of beginner level TRIZ, such as what the MEC members had acquired so far, can make substantial contributions to the problem solving that is necessary to move a product from basic research to full commercialization.  By looking at a totally different industry, it also helps support the claim that TRIZ works in any environment.

Two case studies within the healthcare field were analyzed:

  • Eye medication
  • Shipping proteins

Eye medication is usually dispensed in liquid drops, since it is very easy for non-medical personnel (the patient, or a care giver) to dispense the proper quantity, by relying on the shape of the dispenser and the surface tension of the liquid. But, the time that the medication stays in the eye is unpredictable, since liquids drain into the cul de sac of the eye.

Belinda, the feisty facilitator jumped in, “From a TRIZ perspective, there would be a physical (or inherent) contradiction: you want liquid medication but you don’t want liquid medication.”

“And, recalling from our earlier sessions,” Henrietta continued “we can use one of the four principles to overcome this type of contradiction:

  • Separation of contradictory properties in time
  • Separation of contradictory properties in space
  • Separation between the whole system and its parts (but letting the contradictions co-exist)
  • Separation based on different conditions; solve in sub-system or super-system

We can use the first two principles, separate liquid and not-liquid in time and in space.  The solution is a formulation of the medication that is liquid in the bottle.  However, when dispensed from the dropper, it is activated by body temperature and binds with the tears to form a gel.  Therefore it is no longer a liquid and does not drain into the cul de sac of the eye.  This could also be thought of as demonstration of Principle 35, Change Parameters.

In the case of shipping proteins this is another example of a physical contradiction.  For ease of use, proteins should be in liquid form.  However, they are often difficult to ship in liquid form as they are physically unstable, are affected by surface absorption, can be damaged by temperature changes, and have short shelf life.  There is also the possibility of container breakage.  If the proteins were not liquid, many of these concerns would go away.  We thus have a physical contradiction: the protein should be liquid for ease of use, but its best if it is not liquid for ease of shipping and handling.  Again, applying the principal of separation in time and considering the change in medium, the protein should not be liquid at time of transportation, but should be at time of use.  In this case, freeze-dry the protein material, ship it in dry powder form (not liquid), and reconstitute it at the point of use (liquid).

Again, Belinda piped in, “This solution could have also come from the application of the ‘itself’ form of the Ideal Final Result, which we have seen in the past sessions.  The protein should protect itself during shipment; dry powder would not be subject to the same harmful conditions requiring special protection to prevent deterioration or damage to the container.”

The group was beginning to appreciate the wide ranging applications of TRIZ, understanding that they had only touched the surface with their understanding so far.  They wanted to know more about the different organizations using this methodology and how it was being used for technology forecasting, but that was left to another session.

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