Crawling Toward Breakthrough Treatments

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Crawling Toward Breakthrough Treatments

Modern medicine continues to make enormous progress, but big challenges still lie ahead.

Somewhat like looking down the barrel of a gun, antibiotic resistance is a looming threat. The rise of MRSA, super drug-resistant gonorrhea and other “nightmare” bacteria may render our microscopic defenses useless. So, what are we going to do when your last resort fails to kill these pathogens?

We’re going to need new antibiotics, in addition to better medicines for cancer, depression, and other conditions that aren’t readily treatable by current prescriptions.

FOR DECADES, no industry has been a more reliable moneymaker than pharmaceuticals. Immune to recession, drug companies regularly score 15 percent profit margins year-after-year. There is no danger of market saturation and, in the U.S., little prospect of government restraint of prices.  Nearly all regulatory submissions win approval, and turnaround times are steadily decreasing. If you are an investor, what’s not to like?

But all dominant and expanding industries are fueled by resources of one type or another. Some of these are tangible and obvious, like gold deposits. Their exploitation follows a familiar arc. There is an initial rush to simply pick nuggets up off the ground. When the nuggets have been picked, miners must search for pebbles, then sand, then dust. There are still fortunes to be made, but more and more capital investment is needed to separate the gold from the dross.

As we have previously discussed in Trends, there are several emerging tools involving genomics, big data and artificial intelligence, that will help us discover drugs. The question is where do we look for these molecules.

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