Welcome to the third ‘semidecennial’ issue of DDW Insights, a supplement to Drug Discovery World (DDW). Who would have thought, 15 years later, that DDW would still be the driving force in drug discovery and development.
I am proud of our achievements and thankful to our authors who, over those years, have helped in guiding this great industry through some interesting times.
Regular readers will recall that DDW Insights is a five-yearly supplement to Drug Discovery World where we invite a selected number of eminent lights from pharma, biotech, academia and consultancies to give their honest opinions as to where they believe drug discovery and development will be in five years’ time. Readers will note that I also invite senior executives from a select number of technology platform companies to give their views. In my opinion this is paramount as without their continued invention and development we would be unable to perform those intricate research tasks both today and in the future. While some of our authors are new, some have written in every one our five yearly supplements, all are welcome.
If I look back over the last 15 years I recall, in the early days, sitting in a packed hotel ballroom in Boston listening to Craig Venter unveiling the mapping of the human genome. While the world’s media were claiming the immediate cure for all ills we were one of the first journals to advocate that our full understanding of genomics and other ‘omics’ would take time but that personalised medicine would be the future. Our knowledge has certainly grown dramatically since then and personalised/precision medicine is indeed happening, but we still have a long way to go. As it happens I was recently talking to a General Practitioner friend, and leader of a large practice in the UK, about personalised medicine. It was obvious that his knowledge of the subject was extremely limited so it goes without saying that we have a long way to go in terms of education at all ends of the healthcare spectrum.
Indeed, in those early years of the 21st century we had the screening of compounds on a massive industrial scale and the search for the new blockbuster drug was still the aim but, with the exception of a successful cure for various types of dementia (Alzheimer’s being the most topical) and new antibiotics, those days are gone in favour of a more targeted approach to drug discovery.
In the face of declining R&D productivity we forecasted the break-up of in-house pharma R&D departments with a large chunk of those roles now being performed by CROs and academia. This has certainly been the case and we have seen a lot of activity in the acquisitions market between CROs and smaller drug discovery companies. Who would have thought a few years ago that academia would be working with commercial organisations on the scale they are now, but it makes logical sense and as long as IP issues can be addressed it is a trend that will only continue to grow.
An area of interest for the future is drug repurposing/repositioning. With the bulk of the pharmacologic hurdles already overcome, this strategy has the logical benefits of reduced attrition, lower costs all round and greater speed to market. Indeed, we are already seeing the benefits in many areas with examples such as Thalidomide and its repurposed use in the treatment of multiple myeloma.
A major topic which excites and gives me hope for the future is the field of cancer. With the rapid developments in immunooncology, next gen sequencing and gene editing I feel, for the first time, that we might finally be on the way to finding a cure for many cancers.
With all of these successful therapeutics comes the problem of how we pay for them. With the pressures of a growing, and indeed ageing, global population (partly caused by the successes of our industry!) payers are under increasing pressure to get value for money while making available as many drugs as possible to the general population. New payment models will have to be found between governments, payers and industry providers.
I trust you will find the predictions contained herein of considerable interest and thank our authors for all of their contributions.
So here’s to the next five years and, as I am getting to the age where I will probably need all the help I can get, here’s to a greater understanding of the interaction between disease and therapeutics and the improvement and change that understanding can make to the lives of human beings around the world.