Growing up in Seattle, Jeff Weers practised so much baseball that by the time he began playing at Puget Sound University he could hurl a ball at 95mph (150kph). His fastball wasn’t his only weapon. Weers was adept at curveballs that could lure a batter into a swing-and-miss.
While injury cut short his baseball career, Weers went on to gain a chemistry doctorate and a position as chief science officer at global pharma firm Novartis in San Carlos, California. It was while developing an inhaler for cystic fibrosis patients that Weers found inspiration in his childhood field of dreams.
American kids learn baseball with wiffle balls, hollow perforated plastic spheres, and as Weers says, “You can really get some weird curves with a child’s plastic ball that you can’t get with a baseball”. Those weird curves brought Weers a moment of insight: could the same aerodynamic principles of the wiffle ball be applied to respiratory drugs, for superior delivery to the lungs?