The Accelerating World of Drug Discovery and Commercialization

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The Accelerating World of Drug Discovery and Commercialization

For millennia, new drugs appeared only occasionally, and often as a matter of luck or serendipity. Then, beginning in the 19th century, researchers began to perform systematic scientific research, but progress remained slow.

However, since the emergence of widespread information technology and molecular genetics in the 1970s, the whole field has exploded. Now, a wide range of new techniques is turbo-charging that process.

There are three reasons why this is now increasingly important:

  • First, globalization has steadily increased the vulnerability of the world’s population to pandemics, airborne pathogens, and viruses.
  • Second, the over-prescription of antibiotics has increased the resistance of many so-called “superbugs” to existing drugs, leading to the urgent need for the development of new, more powerful antibiotics.
  • Third, the demand for customized drugs and treatment therapies is rising rapidly as the personalized medicine trend accelerates.

Let’s examine the latest breakthrough technologies and innovative business models that are promising better health for patients—and greater wealth for investors.

Until recently, pharmaceutical firms frequently relied on universities to carry out the clinical trials on human patients that the FDA requires before it approves a new drug. But academic researchers are notorious for taking their time to design, conduct, and publish the results of the trials.

So companies have increasingly used a relatively new entity called a contract research organization (CRO). CROs are private companies that not only complete clinical trials faster and at lower costs than academic researchers; they are also more open to using new technologies.1 And because they are not restricted to a specific country, CROs can test new drugs on patients in other countries, where there are fewer legal restrictions on testing, which speeds up the drug development process.

In fact, foreign research subjects account for a rapidly growing share of the participants in clinical drug trials. This is happening because Americans already take so many drugs that it is becoming more difficult to find patients who haven’t already taken other drugs that could distort the results of the research.2

Furthermore, by expanding the pool of potential test subjects, pharmaceutical companies are able to avoid delays in finding enough subjects for a study in the U.S.

CROs and foreign research subjects are the equivalent of the outsourcing and off shoring trends that have lowered costs and increased productivity in countless industries...

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