We are all scientists
And while we are on the subject of blog posts by Derek Lowe, here’s one where he points to news about Goldman Sachs funding a large pharma company and using a “new” business model
(The model involves) a different approach, creating a “research pool” into which pharma companies would place a range of experimental drugs in a single therapeutic area in early-stage phase 1 and 2 trials, where their specialists would work alongside external experts including scientists, chemists and clinical research organizations.
By the time an experimental drug is in Phase I or II trials, little ‘research’ is really being done. It is mostly development, at least with regard to dosing and such, as well as production methods. The failure rate of drugs at this late stage is much lower than during the pre-development stage, which really is what most people would call research.
But the large costs for drug development comes at the clinical trial stages. So it makes sense for Big Pharma to pool resources here to save some money.
That’s a model that I am sure I’ve heard being mentioned somewhere else, although I can’t remember. The concept is one that does appeal to me in general, but is phase 1 or 2 the correct time? A lot of the attrition occurs in pre-clinical work. Isn’t that the best time to share some risk and make some bets? I still like the idea of a company whose task it is to find interesting drug candidates and connect that candidate to pharma, biotech, academic researchers and funding, or a model where there would be a marketplace that early stage candidates could be placed into and companies could form collaborations or bid for the ability to take the drug forward. This isn’t that far removed for those ideas. I think the distribution fosters innovation, but having someone orchestrating the network is also critical otherwise you won’t get anywhere.
Anyhows, will be following this story and see if we can find out more. A quick google search really didn’t shed any additional light.
Pre-development, on the other hand, is something Big Pharma has not been as innovative at. That can be seen in the areas of research seen in many non-profit research institutions and small biotech companies.
In many cases, technology moves out of basic research facilities at universities and research institutions too early, with a very risky economic future. The pressures of raising money often hampers effective investigation of novel approaches, especially today when almost every small company wants to demonstrate a ‘proof of concept’ so it can sell out to a larger company.
Either the technology should be held longer and investigated by non-profit research institutions (and we see this with some of these organizations moving all the way to production methods) or for a similar basic research pool for companies to fund interesting technologies. Luke Timmerman wrote about one such possibility in Boston earlier this year, Enlight.