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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Improving Early Stage Research

The NIH has a new one billion dollar plan to help the cargo cults get more airplanes to land on their runways. It seems that about 1 out of every 10,000 molecules selected to become drugs ever make it. And the biopharmaceutical research sector invested an estimated $65.3 billion to discover and develop new medicines in 2009. How does all of that money and brilliant science result in such failure?

The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences has been created to fix the problem. According to NIH director Francis Collins, the goal is to develop old discarded drug development programs far enough to interest industry in finishing the job. The government is going to help the pharmaceutical industry get more drugs into the market. I guess they have some data that shows a correlation between the number of drug approvals with an improvement in the health of the American people.

To be fair, they are claiming to take on disease indications that are not profitable to big pharma. When the NIH scientists get to a certain stage, big pharma will take over. There will be a smooth tech transfer and drugs will be made available to help people.

It seems like the government is working for the drug companies. The new center will be in the same position as a small biotech company, offering up possible drug programs for pharmaceutical companies. How will this effect the claim of one molecule in ten thousand becoming a drug? Will government scientists improve early stage research or will they take the financial hit for some of the failures?

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