Issue Date: October 31, 2011
Drug Development In Academe
“Moving From Lab to Market” describes some positive strategies for enhancing transfer of technology from the university lab bench to the market (C&EN, Sept. 26, page 7). One of the key areas for these new strategies will no doubt be in the field of drug discovery and development. Hopefully this will result in new and better drugs for people.
An issue not considered, however, is the question of who benefits financially from these enhanced technology-transfer strategies. As described in an article in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, most academic drug discovery activities are still at a very early phase of development (DOI: 10.1038/nrd2648). Will increased linkages to biotech and big pharma allow those companies to scoop up early-stage intellectual property for drug candidates for a very modest price and then go on to reap the lion’s share of the rewards as candidates enter clinical trials?
I believe an important issue for universities is to consider how far along the drug development pipeline they can bring their candidates. A molecule in Phase I or Phase II clinical trials is worth many, many times more than a candidate with only cell culture or simple animal model data to support it. Perhaps universities need to consider some new strategies to help their internal drug discovery programs begin to cross “the valley of death” of formulation—absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion—and preclinical toxicology prior to increased engagement with commercial organizations.
By Rudy Juliano
Chapel Hill, NC
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