Thursday, April 4, 2013

39 FDA drug approvals in 2012: everything is back to normal(?)

FDA approved 39 new drugs last year. This is great news no question about it. First thought is for celebration. Indeed. We needed this, and that's good news for all of us working in the drug discovery industry. Taking the large lay-offs, especially in the US, affecting thousands of people, I think this gives back something, at least the hope that this trend is about to change. But is it? I think it is worth digging a bit deeper and see what were the keys for this success. As demonstrated at BioSpring, 50% of the approved drugs were basically in-licensed by big pharma and 100% involved some SME (small/medium-sized enterprise) as a partner during discovery/development. What does this mean? If I would work for a big pharma company, I would probably not feel assured about future, as these numbers suggest as least for me that innovation is coming from SME and it is acquired or in-licensed by big pharma. One might also see trends like big pharma becoming investors and it is the SME that is focusing on discovery. I think this is normal and have nothing to do against great scientists working at big pharma. This is really not about which scientists have better capabilities, are they innovative or not, so don't take this personally. I think this is about what Steve Blank said once (can't remember the exact words, sorry). Imagine someone working at McDonalds coming up with the idea on a nice, sunny morning to prepare the burgers based on a new recipe. What would happen? He would be convinced to stop this non-sense and get back to work, and if he is still not getting it, he will be soon on the road to seek a new job (or starting his new shop based on the new recipe). I think there is an analogy to the pharma industry. Big pharma is good in execution, but that is probably not enough and is not the reason for the high number of new approved drugs on the market. Opinions?

1 comment:

  1. Big Pharma scientists are as great as these working for SME. The difference is that they are being suffocated by their working environment. Ant laid it and nailed it all out in his blog: http://www.eyesopen.com/en/blog/what-is-really-killing-pharma
    It reminds me of buying an excellent, fast racing horse and tying its legs with wire.