At this year’s Informex Jeff Kiplinger will be featured in the show’s daily “Five Minutes with…” segment. This post features the printed version of the interview.
Among the challenges the industry faces, which do you think are the most pressing?
Simply put, the pharmaceutical industry has to identify novel drugs and move them into the clinic rapidly. This means we need to efficiently validate their clinical relevance, profile and de-risk them, and design the best clinical path possible. To me, it all comes back to having the right knowledge of the compound’s action and properties and acting on that knowledge decisively.
And what do you believe are the most creative solutions?
We have to stop encumbering research with process. In the early 90s, pharma leaders promoted the idea that we could automate R&D, essentially playing a game of “most shots on goal” that would – with an optimized process – put more compounds into the clinic and result in more medicines. It gave us a process that produced a lot of new products that were built on old templates; drugs that were at best incremental advances on existing therapies. To get a new idea to conform to a standardized process is hard, and hard means slow and costly. Many pharma companies have abandoned the hard stuff.
If small companies, research institutes, and academic researchers are the next generation of innovators in pharma, it might just be because they’re not burdened with a pharmaceutical R&D roadmap. The most creative solution is to let innovation happen – enable all research as long as it’s directed by clinical relevance.
What should be the common goals within the industry and/or marketplace?
I think “common goals” is a phrase that reflects the reality of R&D today. Big pharma can’t lead the industry alone anymore, but they have the capital and to a large extent the expertise – everything from research to commercialization. Innovation can come from anywhere, but to a large extent it comes from the freedom of research in academia, institutes, and start-ups. And, increasingly, R&D’s hard work is coming from CROs and CMOs. This is more than ever a distributed R&D environment – it’s a new ecosystem.
Investment will still be driven by profits, but it has to come from within the industry as well as from speculators like VC firms. Investment from within the industry comes from research partnerships, shared risk deals, funding with active guidance, deals that are still considered kind of new school. The common goal should be a full pipeline industry-wide. Building a better pharmaceutical industry will involve first figuring out how to generate research breakthroughs in human health again, the way we did in the last century.