Thursday, August 4, 2011

Biotech & Academe- who benefits?

A recent article in Nature Biotechnology described the formation of new alliances between biotech companies and leading universities. This follows an earlier trend of big Pharma investments in academe. Hopefully all this will result in new and better drugs for people. However, an issue not considered is the question of who benefits most from these relationships. As described in a recent article in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery (NRDD 2011 Jun;10(6):409-10) most academic drug discovery activities are still at a very early phase of development. Will increased linkages to biotech and big Pharma allow those companies to scoop up early stage IP 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, ADME, and pre-clinical toxicology.