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What is the Future for Drug Discovery?

What is the Future for Drug Discovery

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The future for drug discovery is dark grey. Big Pharma as we know it is going to to die. Only a few brave companies will survive, but only after a painful adaptation to the new reality.

Some are trying to adapt, hoping their pink hammer will fix the situation.

My concern has hit a maximum after reading this article by Simon Campbell (ex-Pfizer)  What is the Future for Drug Discovery in the UK? In it he describes the roadmap pharma industry should follow in order to survive. Some of the ideas are frightening.


A new and sustainable funding model with public sector participation is urgently required for world class UK scientists to invent and develop innovative medicines that meet the medical needs of the 21st Century.

Public money is needed, but the profits will go for the companies, I guess. Does it sound like what happened with banks all over Europe?

We should build a consensus of expert stakeholders with the common objective of informing and influencing future development of world class healthcare innovation in the UK.

Lobbying and creating brain washed scientists is not the most ethical way to create a new future for drug discovery.

The government has stated a firm commitment to life sciences as a catalyst for growth, but emphasis appears to be on clinical trials, biologics and cell therapies rather than on cost effective and orally delivered small molecules that are the bedrock of any healthcare system.

More lobbying. What if “orally delivered small molecules” can’t solve every single disease? Why not to look a bit further from our belly button? What happened to personalized medicine? Prevention? Promoting a healthy life style?

Future R&D should focus on therapeutic areas of significant medical need where transformative new drugs will improve quality of life, and bring economic benefit.

No long tail business in the future for drug discovery, only focus on what makes big bucks.

We must address attrition […] expand pre-competitive collaborations between industry/academia to focus on target selection/validation, predictive toxicology and to identify patient sub-groups that respond to agents with novel mechanisms of action…

This sounds a bit better. Collaborating with academia and targeting certain subgroups of patients.

…These initiatives would reduce risk, simplify clinical trails and lower costs

Ah my friend! We thought they want to target on sub-groups to improve the quality of their products, but it was just to reduce costs and maximize benefits. Stupid me, for a moment I forgot they are here for the money.

A network of Therapeutic Centres of Excellence should be established […] expert medicinal chemists released by industry […] Unused assets from Pharma could be included.

Experienced industrial scientists should be also embedded in world class biomedical centres by creating new chairs in medicinal chemistry

So these released experts working in Centres of Excellence created by Pharma are going to continue to use pharm.’s ideas to push pharm.’s agenda? Or on the other hand are going to push patients’ agenda?

If world class Pharma/Biotech talent is allowed to fade away, it will be extremely difficult to re-build quality in the future.

Many times something has to die so a better version can be born. It can be difficult, like many profound changes, but at the end of the process it will pay off.

Reallocation of current budgets…

Government, Funding Councils and Charities should now invest for future growth, as economic benefits will largely depend on a strong UK drug discovery capability that invents new medicines for world wide commercialisation

Some old school Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt (FUD) to end with. If you don’t give pharma big public bucks we are all screwed. It is again the same situation with banks, they take risks and when in trouble, public money has to be given. This only creates the incentives to be stupid again, since public institutions will take care of you no matter what.


If your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

“Orally delivered small molecules” is the hammer that pharmaceutical companies have been using for decades. They have realized they only have a hammer. Unfortunately, they are asking public money to paint it pink and try to fix problems now with a pink hammer.

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