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The Importance of the Team in Drug Development

Posted on September 14th, 2016 by in Chemistry


In recent years, many pharmaceutical development experts have published opinion pieces focused on the issues faced by their industry. There are calls for changes in drug design workflows, and many focus on the need for inter-disciplinary research teams that share data and embrace modern research solutions.

One such expert is Dr. Scott Lusher, former Director of Strategy & Communications at the Netherlands eScience Center, an organization that supports the development of new IT solutions that better reflect and leverage the new, data-laden nature of scientific research. In aninterview with Elsevier, he detailed how big data could only benefit drug design and optimization if there was a significant change in the approach to pharmaceutical development.

In the fascinating interview (which I encourage you to read for yourself), Dr. Lusher shared his opinions on the questions that should drive the drug design cycle, how data should be handled, and what technology could best facilitate the recording, analysis, sharing and visualization of information.

I found his opinions about teamwork particularly interesting. He pointed out that all the features and analysis power of technology will always remain secondary to the interpretation of data: that is a role that will still be done by people. And in order to work best, he says that a change in mentality is required:

“Medicinal chemists, biologists, pharmacologists and all other team members will need to work with, share, trust and interpret data differently. Currently, each team member has a specific task: the medicinal chemists do the design and synthesis, the biologists perform bioassays, the toxicologists search for potential adverse effects, and so on. Those boundaries will need to vanish. While each individual brings his or her expertise to the group, all must be versed in every discipline encompassed by the team and all must work at the interface of these fields.”

Dr. Lusher goes on to say that the pharmaceutical industry needs to reassert the importance of the team, as he believes that “concrete decisions about the direction of a compound series are best made by all hands—the team of people that generated and know their data.”

In corporate, customer-focused settings, inter-functional teams are a common approach to complex projects, with the mix of skills and knowledge recognized as necessary for success. Dr. Lusher is recommending that these teams elevate to a new level of collaboration where individual members become active participants in every aspect of the drug development workflow. Team members must look beyond the boundaries of their own tasks and fully understand the work and results of every development step to transform the team into a synergistic unit that can make informed decisions based on the whole of data they produce. It would be fascinating to know if any companies are already applying this type of teamwork and what the impact has been.

Read the full interview with Dr. Lusher here.


All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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