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Turning ideas into products – a pharmaceutical paradigm shift

By Bob Damms, PA Technology Healthcare expert  

In an environment of reduced pharmaceutical R&D spend and reduced university funding, where will we find the next blockbuster drugs, especially at a time when the UK is relying on a knowledge-based economy to help support future economic growth?

The next big breakthrough drug is unlikely to be a ‘blockbuster’ product, and it’s not just a question of looking in the right places, being more flexible and achieving better collaboration between UK academics and industry to uncover the next big discovery.

The post-genomic shift toward patient stratification has changed the traditional pharmaceutical business model from one of developing low-cost drugs of incremental benefit for large patient populations to one of effective, high-value drugs for targeted, niche patient populations.

This means a fundamental change in the approach to drug discovery and ultimately a dramatic change in the way drugs are paid for. The era of the niche-buster, rather than the blockbuster, is fast approaching.

Pharmaceutical companies will eventually end up selling fewer drugs to more targeted populations, which may affect global profits, but this more translational approach has the advantage of shortening the drug discovery process.

Pharmaceutical companies have the opportunity to make fewer drugs, charge more and reduce the cost of production. Important though greater interaction between academia and industry is - especially in the training and development of the next generation of scientists and researchers - it can only partly address the problems the UK faces at translating its ideas into successful products.

To do this universities and industry need to empower the right people to proactively identify novel IP in academic institutions. These people should be embedded in a field or therapy area; be able to utilise the latest business models; and have a regular and deep access to industry insight.

A further issue is that industry is often seen as a source of finance rather than of knowledge and insight, and conversely, the imperatives that drive the respective institutions are often unaligned. Rather than involve industry at a late stage, the interaction with relevant industry expertise earlier in the discovery pathway can add essential insight into the development of the product.

The UK Government has made significant investment in translational infrastructure over the last 10-15 years.  To realise it, we need follow through with development of enhanced governance and organisational structures, to align academic institutions with industry - a tough job but one that doesn’t require large expenditure.  The success that follows will further enhance the reputation of UK biomedical research, and unlock significant commercial returns.

To discuss effective strategies for turning ideas into products in the new healthcare environment, please contact us now.

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