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news Sep 2, 2016

Opening Up Drug Discovery

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Extract from 'Laboratory News. September 2016' by Professor Jackie Hunter, CEO BenevolentBio

It is my natural tendency to believe that trans­parency in general is a good thing so long as it  doesn't hinder competitiveness or expose people to risk of harm. When I joined the pharmaceutical industry in the 1980s, there was a real sensitivity in sharing any information since the competition between companies was fierce and information was seen as a competitive commodity. Publications were not encouraged and data around pipelines and portfolios a closely guarded secret. 'Nega­tive' clinical data was not shared either and this secrecy contributed to the negative view of the pharmaceutical industry that still pervades today.

This is unfortunate because one of the reasons I joined the industry was because I thought discovering and developing new medicines was a laudable and worth­while endeavour, especially as I myself used medicines for my asthma on a daily basis. So where has the situa­tion improved across the R&D process in the past two decades and where are improvements still necessary?

There have been a number of pressures on the indus­try aside from lack of trust. First the escalating costs of developing new medicines - today it is estimated that this is in the order of $1-$1.SB per drug. This incorporates the cost of failure and ultimately the cost of failure has risen so greatly that it is no longer sustain­able. In addition, there have been increasing regulatory demands and uncertainties around reimbursement and pricing. These pressures have led to the adoption of a more open innovation mind set within the industry that has seen much more pre-competitive collaboration and data sharing especially in the early stages of drug discovery and development. 


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