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R&D to drop two thirds by 2020


By 2020 the pharma R&D process may be shortened by two-thirds, success rates may dramatically increase, and clinical trial costs could be cut substantially, research shows.

New computer based technologies will create a greater understanding of the biology of disease and the evolution of ‘virtual man’ to enable researchers to predict the effects of new drug candidates before they enter human beings.

The patents on many of the medicines launched in the 1990s will expire over the next few years, leaving Pharma very exposed and only four out of the top 10 companies have enough products in their pipelines to fill the impending revenue gap.

Steve Arlington, global pharmaceutical and life sciences industry advisory leader, PricewaterhouseCoopers, said: “Plummeting productivity of effective novel treatments in the lab means incremental improvements to R&D are no longer enough. The resulting commercial deficit in Pharma has enormous implications for the industry, society and governments as a whole. To remain at the forefront of medical research, help patients live longer healthier lives and deliver the revenue returns shareholders have come to expect, Pharma needs a faster, more predictive way of testing molecules before they go into humans.

“Equally as a society we must acknowledge that we cannot afford to suffocate the investments made by the pharmaceutical industry into R&D; a concern that should be high on the socio-political agenda. We have to face the issue that if Pharma is no longer financially capable of this, there is a question where the next new medicine will come from?”

Anthony Farino, US pharmaceutical and life sciences advisory leader, PricewaterhouseCoopers, said: “New technologies can play a major role in helping Pharma move forward – enhancing its ability to produce treatments which deliver measurable improvements in safety, efficacy and ease of compliance – treatments which have value in the eyes of healthcare payers as well as those of the companies making them. They will also deliver substantial savings – they could collectively halve development times and attrition rates, thereby reducing costs per drug dramatically.

“Technology is not the answer to all Pharma’s problems. Many companies as well as the infrastructure of regulators and vendors that support the industry will have to make significant strategic, organisational and behavioural changes. Overhauling R&D requires a decision on whether the organisation wants to produce mass-market medicines or speciality therapies, where they want to be located geographically to have access to the best skills or cost base and whether they want to outsource most of their research and development or keep it in-house. The choices they make will have a profound bearing on the business models and mix of skills they require as well as the skills of those who support them.

“Connectivity – technological, intellectual and social – will ultimately enable us to make sense of ourselves and the diseases from which we suffer.”

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