Drug Discovery: Time for a Change
The pharmaceutical industry is at a crossroads. Despite revolutionary advances in molecular biology that have made genetic decoding routine, the time from gene to cure still stands at 17 years. High-throughput screening methods allow us to test the efficacy of millions of compounds against a molecular target in a single week; but the odds of one of those compounds making it through the development pipeline and becoming a drug are less than 1/1,000,000. A well-funded group starting today, using the traditional model of drug development, has a very slim chance at getting a drug to market by 2025.
The time has come to change the way we cure disease. We are no longer asking whether a gene or a molecule is critical to a particular biological process; rather, we are discovering whole networks of molecular and cellular interactions that contribute to disease. And soon, we will have such information about individuals, rather than the population as a whole. Biomedical knowledge is exploding, and yet the system to capture that knowledge and translate it into saving human lives still relies on an antiquated and risky strategy of focusing the vast resources of a few pharmaceutical companies on just a handful of disease targets.