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Speeding up Science: How We Can Stop the Decline of Drug Production as Scientific Information Increases

Posted on October 28th, 2015 by in Chemistry

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Every 9 years, scientific output is doubling and more information is being made available to the world’s top scientists. Contrary to common sense and public opinion, for every 1 billion invested in drug development, the number of drugs approved has been halved every 9 years, and approximately 70% of drugs sold in the US today are generics.
Why is this happening? How are we producing much less with more information?

Here’s my theory: The large number of generic drugs sold demonstrates a lack of innovation within the Pharma industry, and we need to do something about it.

I believe the Pharma industry must re-invent the way it thinks about developing drugs. For example, 63% of the R&D drug development budget is spent in late stage clinical phases, and this budget increases every year. Unfortunately, the output of clinical phases is decreasing every year.

Are Pharma companies investing their R&D budgets in the right place? The data suggests otherwise:

  • During the 1990s, significant efforts were made that led to a steep reduction in pre-clinical attrition; however, attrition has shifted to clinical phase
  • Safety and efficacy remain major concerns, and there has been no satisfying ways to predict what will and won’t work
  • Calculated properties and experimental properties can be very different, therefore it is recommended to use experimentally determined values when possible
  • Only the use of larger data set will permit to predict what is driving attrition (and as a consequence designing compounds that won’t fail in the clinic); however, only accessible and interpretable data are useful

I believe the time has come to “speed up Science” and shift our investment to the earlier stages of drug development, so that we can better understand the biology of how diseases work and combine diagnostics and drugs to target better characterized patient populations more effectively.

I look forward to discussing how to speed up Science and combat information overload in future posts and look forward to hearing your thoughts in the comments section.

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