The June 20th issue of Science had an interesting story worth noting (interesting to anyone into molecular pharmacology, anyway), on Drugs, Industry, and Academia. It caught my attention because of some conversations that I’ve been having recently with colleagues and friends in the industry – how is Big Pharma going to maintain itself amid slowing drug discovery trends?
Now, I’m working at a generic pharmaceutical company for the time being, and the coming decade will be a boom for companies who aren’t following discovery model – so many very profitable drugs will be coming off their patents over that time.
Just about everyone agrees on about two things though. First, more basic research, the vast amount of which takes place in academia and is sponsored by federal funding. Thus, the government makes investments in the relevant fields of study to maintain economic prosperity in the pharmaceuticals market. And second, high-throughput screening, combinatorial chemistry, and rationalized drug design have largely been failures, suggesting that we don’t have an efficient system for discovery that can out-perform an army of inventive academics.
Beyond those two items, it sounds as though nobody has a clear vision for what the pharmaceutical industry should become. I imagine that each company will formulate their own strategy, and the one(s) with the right combination of effective qualities in the changing market will come out on top.