|2012 — The start of the biopharma renaissance
message from CURE President Paul Pescatello
With a new year upon us, I’ve been asked a lot to make sense of the competing forces roiling the biopharma world. On the one hand, great strides have been made in research labs, both in academia and in industry. 2011 saw the introduction of powerful new diagnostics for diseases like Alzheimer’s (Eli Lilly’s Amyvid) and elegantly targeted new medicines (like Pfizer’s lung cancer drug Crizotinib).
But investors are wary, scrutinizing new medicine and medical device candidates as never before. Governments — national, state and local — perceive biopharma as a means to reinvigorate economies and spur job growth while at the same time the private sector reevaluates the biopharma business model.
What’s going on? A renaissance. With better understanding of disease mechanisms, vast compound screening apparatuses have given way to more precise research programs. Complex R&D bureaucracies have been recast into smaller, nimbler, research teams and collaborations with academia and start-ups. These newly invigorated research efforts are honing in on targets and doing so with a significantly higher probability of their work becoming successful (FDA approved!) treatments and cures.
The overarching if somewhat unrecognized theme is that the huge amount of information, data, discoveries, and insights that define the past twenty years are beginning to bear fruit. The low hanging fruit — medicines for cholesterol, blood pressure, acid reflux and the like — has indeed been picked. But there’s a lot more on the tree and we increasingly have the means to reach it.
Today what stands in the way of new medicine development is much more about government policy than science. Far too much uncertainty looms over the industry as to how new medicines can be priced. All the capital that is poured into research and development must be translated into a positive return. If the dollars invested in new medicine development can be allocated towards products with less risk and/or a greater potential return, they will. If the regulatory burden of initial public offerings becomes too great, fewer dollars will be raised to fuel new medicine research and development. And if new drug approval is laden with more and seemingly arbitrary clinical trial protocols, the pipeline of new medicines will narrow.
Our state has reaffirmed and expanded its commitment to Connecticut bioscience in many ways – the recruitment of The Jackson Laboratory and stem cell research funding to name only two. CURE will work hard this coming year to help rationalize federal rules and policies that weigh down our industries inherent innovative energy. With any luck, the efficiencies and successes occurring in biopharma labs will be matched by federal policy makers.
Paul R. Pescatello is President and CEO of CURE.
Postscript. On the subject of efficiencies and rational delivery of services, I want you to know that beginning January 1 CURE has entered into a relationship with the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA) in Hartford for office support. We will continue to have a presence in the all-important hub of Connecticut biotech — New Haven — but will also have space and “back office” infrastructure provided by the CBIA. CURE has worked almost from its inception in the 1980s with the CBIA — the improved connectivity between our two organizations will enhance what is already a very effective relationship.
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