Friday, April 5, 2013

How DC policy reporters see pharma R&D

This video of a couple of Washington Post reporters talking about the state of biomedical research is interesting, if only to see the scope of their knowledge about the pharmaceutical industry.

My thoughts:
  • They don't see pharma as doing "basic research", certainly as much as NIH. 
    • I think that can be true, but I find it intriguing that basic biology is always seen as "basic research" (and not a salable product.) 
    • Is high-throughput screening basic research? At what point does "medicinal chemistry" become "applied research"? 
  • I would really like a full discussion of the reasons why pharma companies don't work on antibiotics research; Ms. Kliff goes with the standard "not enough pills = not enough money" explanation. 
    • I think Derek Lowe has established that it's a difficult scientific problem. 
    • I wonder if it might be that if you come up with a new first-in-class antibiotic, the medical community would be incentivized/encouraged not to use it, in order to save it for truly resistant bacteria. 
  • Ms. Kliff's comment at 3:50 that pharma investors won't stand for "investing in flop after flop" is very interesting. 
Note: after ~7 minutes or so, it goes back to a discussion of President Obama's neuroscience initiative. 


  1. The Aqueous LayerApril 5, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    I was too distracted by:

    1) The guy's, uh, well, uh, you know, uh, uh, really poor, uh, ability to speak, uh, you know, without, uh a lot of, uh, "uh's"

    2) The woman's fire engine bright red fingernail polish.

    Carmen Drahl would have knocked this out of the park.

  2. The Aqueous LayerApril 5, 2013 at 12:40 PM

    The argument about antibiotics you mentioned is mostly true. Most new ones that come out are not for front-line therapy, rather to be used as last-resort type treatments for bacterial resistance. No new antibiotic is going to be prescribed like the Z-Pack is.

    Clinically, the bar is just too high. The trials have to be huge, the drugs have to been exceptionally clean and well tolerated. Things like 'taste perversion' can kill a compound because of the concern about full compliance with the prescribed time-course.

    The risk-reward just isn't worth it in most pharma company's eye. Only a handful even bother to do front-line antibacterial work.