Category: Productivity

Someone Who Really Understands Drug Development

Today, I ran across someone on LinkedIn who has the best grasp of declining R&D productivity from a macro level that I’ve ever seen. Kelvin Scott has a series of very insightful articles such as the ones below and a fantastic presentation.

I highly recommend you take a look though he’s more pessimistic than is warranted (he thinks that the industry is doomed). Many of his observations are on the mark, in that things cannot continue on the same trajectory. In my view, that means that they won’t–I think there will be structural changes in pharmaceutical R&D that will reverse the trends, because no one is going to be able to run companies forever with a negative return on investment.

For example, he discusses how there are too many companies chasing the same target that drives ROI down for everyone. That is probably true, and of course that means that eventually some of the companies will go out of business. When that happens, returns will rebound.

Continue reading “Someone Who Really Understands Drug Development”

It’s a Shame that Scientists Develop Drugs, Instead of Engineers

Museum of Natural History. That’s a funny name, isn’t it? The whole building is full of scientific and biological items like skeletons and fossils. Where’s the history part?  Shouldn’t it be called Museum of Science? Most people would put science and history on the opposite end of the spectrum.

When you hear a name like that, it almost feels like someone’s trying to obfuscate, trying to Continue reading “It’s a Shame that Scientists Develop Drugs, Instead of Engineers”

Power of Failure

“All I wanted was the opportunity to fail” – Jack Goeken, Founder of MCI

You can’t have successes without risking failure

When medical students are taught about appendicitis, we are taught that 20% of the appendectomies should find that the appendix does not need to removed. In other words, we should have such a low threshold for surgery that in 20% of the cases, we should be wrong. If only 10% of the surgeries are wrong, we are killing patients because Continue reading “Power of Failure”

Castalia, Kinetics, Space

In a novel, The Glass Bead, by Herman Hesse, the rulers of a world round up all the intellectuals who may be threat to them and shut them away in an isolated world called Castalia, to play a game called glass beads. The intellectuals play this game and occupy themselves, convinced that this internally self-consistent game is the most Continue reading “Castalia, Kinetics, Space”

(Don’t) Blame the Chemists

Couple of days ago, I was talking to a medicinal chemist about why drug development productivity might have decreased.

Now, mind you, this guy was an “excellent chemist.” He’s been at this for over 30 years. He’s run big discovery groups for major pharmas. More recently, he’s been at small biotechs, and he’s been very productive. With 50 chemists or so, he’s managed to pop out 3 candidates in the last several years, all of which have been partnered with Continue reading “(Don’t) Blame the Chemists”

Whence the Low Productivity?

One of the most intractable problems in drug development has been productivity.

Some feel that productivity has decreased substantially while other believe that it has merely remained obstinately the same.  What is clear is that investment and costs have been rising, and the output has at best remained constant.

I’ve had a lot of conversations about this with Continue reading “Whence the Low Productivity?”

What We Get Wrong About Drug Development

Looking back at history of drug development, and the direction it has gone in the last twenty years or so, I think there are perhaps some assumptions about biology of drugs that we might want to challenge or question. Below are some of my thoughts about drug development productivity I’ve collected over the last couple of years.

Absolute levels of drugs and molecules tell only part of the story. Continue reading “What We Get Wrong About Drug Development”

Improving Productivity

Is There Hope for Improving Drug Development Productivity?

I was recently reading yet another paper bemoaning the dropping productivity in drug development. The authors were discussing the most likely explanations for the decline, which were

  • tighter regulation
  • illusory decline (no actual decline)
  • depletion of low-hanging fruit
  • increasing risk aversion by the drug companies
  • rising hurdles on safety

I mention this only because the paper was written in 1978 Continue reading “Improving Productivity”

Decision Making

One mystery of drug productivity at large pharma is the persistent low productivity despite the fact that there are tremendously talented scientists at every large pharma company. Their expertise is often encyclopedic, and their creativity is often very evident. Despite this, productivity at large companies have been less than impressive. The productivity appears to be low in comparison to small biotechs, but even more shocking, Continue reading “Decision Making”