Saúl Castañeda Hernández, a graduate of the Faculty of Chemical Sciences and Engineering (Facultad de Ciencias Químicas e Ingeniería, FCQI, in Spanish), was acknowledged by the Junior Chamber International (JCI) as one of the world’s 10 most outstanding young people. This organization presented him with the TOYP (Ten Outstanding Young People) award in the medical innovation category for his work on treating infantile hemangiomas.

Since he was a student, he became interested in children-focused medicine. Hence, he involved himself in the work done in the pharmacy and medicine production area of the Hospital Infantil de las Californias (Children’s Hospital of the Californias in English) guided by Hermelinda de la Cruz Durán, PharmD, professor at FCQI and a key mentor for Saúl, who with her knowledge and human quality encouraged the work of the then chemistry student.

“I started to get involved on the topic since she (PharmD De la Cruz Durán,) invited us students who were interested in doing social service programs and internships; given that I was already in hospital pharmacy where I was in direct contact with pediatric patients and parents,” whose treatments are individual and get a follow up to make sure their therapy is working, that there are no adverse effects, and that somehow the diseases are cured more easily.

Through the formulation of drugs in unique and specialized presentations for children that are not commercially available, Saúl treated patients with high blood pressure, chronic kidney disease, autism, intellectual disability, and uncommon diseases such as infantile hemangiomas o neurological disorders.

“We have to make sure that we are using—and administering—the drug in the right way for the patient. This means that we are not going to give tablets to a one-day-old baby or that he or she has veins that can receive injections, therefore, we require drugs adjusted to the right route of administration. Thus, we develop syrups , oral solutions, and patches, among others, so they are more attractive,” Saúl said. He also said that they have to consider the odor, color, and taste of the drugs so their administration is easy. The pharmacology—the formulation of personalized drugs—, made at FCQI’s laboratories, in collaboration with Children’s Hospital of the Californias, turned into the stage that encourage Saúl to create his laboratory in 2018 called Milla Labs, from which drugs such as Propranolol and Timolol, used to treat infantile hemangiomas, are exported to Argentina, Chile, Colombia, United States, Guatemala, and Peru.

“I have a social commitment, which is to help and not profit from patient’s health… I have never thought of patenting and selling a drug for a couple thousand pesos when it costs only a couple hundred pesos… Being part of the treatments for the benefit of the patient and receiving the gratitude of their family is morally and professionally more fulfilling to me.”

Saúl Castañeda

Regarding the process before being presented the TOYP award, PharmD Castañeda Hernandez, explained that he went through various stages following his nomination, in which he participated in online interviews and evaluations. After a screening of a young group of 20 people, the 10 most outstanding were elected. Saúl was the only Latin American elected and this is his first international recognition.

Upon receiving the award in front of 5000 people from 100 different countries, he felt proud of the recognition and dissemination of his and his team’s work on various international media. 

The award consists of the sponsorship of a trip and stay in Switzerland, as well as an incentive of 5000 to 10 000 dollars for his research project focused on diseases such as Parkinson’s and different types of cancer.