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Avoiding Pitfalls and Costly Mistakes in Early Stage R&D

Posted on January 17th, 2019 by in Pharma R&D

tufts new

Pharma R&D costs continue to rise rapidly. A well-known Tufts study estimated the average pre-tax cost per new approved prescription drug (including failures and capital costs) was nearly $2.6 billion in 2013. However, the creation of novel approved drugs has not kept up with investment over the past two decades. To avoid the risks and high costs of mistakes that may not become apparent until late in the drug development process, it’s more important than ever for companies to invest wisely in information research tools during early-stage development.

To remain competitive, it’s particularly critical for smaller companies and firms with relatively less capital to spend on R&D to focus on avoiding errors in the earliest stages of drug development By using tools that facilitate early-stage research and provide a full view of the available literature, discovery teams can surface information and insights earlier in the R&D process. The result can be a significant improvement in the odds of avoiding the types of pitfalls or errors that typically terminate projects during later stages.

It can be tempting to minimize the budget for research solutions during early-stage development. Despite the well-deserved confidence that company’s have in their teams’ abilities to ask the right questions in order to find answers and arrive at insights, time and money constraints are ever-present. But under-investing in research solutions can be risky, given the heavy sunk costs that accrue as potential new drug moves through the development stages.

R&D Costs by Stage, 2014

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Source: International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations, The Pharmaceutical Industry and Global Health, Facts and Figures 2017,

A wide range of pitfalls may occur at any stage or phase in the R&D process, including:

  • Failing to plan strategically
  • Failing to plan thoroughly
  • Overlooking essential data
  • Compiling unneeded data
  • Pursuing dead ends that may have already been reported
  • Rushing through the discovery process
  • Failing to recognize conflicts of interest
  • Making technical errors

Dr. Sei-chang Ahn, who heads the process center at LegoChem Biosciences, observes, “Nowadays, there is so much chemical data available from the various platforms, but it is critical to select the right data at the right time from this flood of information.” To avoid the various risks inherent in early-stage discovery, such as overlooking essential data or unsuspectingly pursuing known dead ends, LegoChem research teams use pharma R&D resources like Reaxys to continue making impressive advances in their work. Armed with timely information, these researchers reduce the likelihood of making a mistake that could result in having to abandon a project later in the process.

Another small company, 4P-Pharma, uses a variety of solutions to plan and design its preclinical experiments. For example, Embase helps its teams to easily surface information about R&D models and outcomes. That’s a critical element in 4P’s business model of identifying promising technologies within academic and small private laboratories and helping accelerate their development.

By combining the expertise of their research teams with powerful informatics and knowledge management solutions, pharma companies can do more than just speed up their R&D process. Upfront investment in research tools used in early stages can save time and money down the road by helping research teams avoid dead ends and other types of failures and mistakes that end up being more costly when they become apparent later in the R&D process.

Whether researchers are identifying and validating drug targets, transitioning from hits to leads, pursuing lead optimization, or engaged in vivo testing, relying on effective research tools can facilitate their early-stage efforts. Thorough research in early stages helps increase the success rate of late-stage trials, which ultimately boosts the returns on a company’s R&D investments.








Account Manager at Elsevier

Account Manager at Elsevier

Shawn Hooks is an account manager at Elsevier.  He works with pharmaceutical companies, biotech companies and other life science corporate customers to help them optimize their R&D efforts by consulting on their research and workflow needs.



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