New report provides vital insights for the development of new medicines

Published: 19-Jan-2018

The state of the Drug Discovery Nation is unveiled as a new report provides vital insights for the development of new medicines with the Medicines Discovery Catapult and BioIndustry Association calling on the R&D community to address five themes to help boost productivity

A new joint report ‘State of the Discovery Nation 2018’, by the Medicines Discovery Catapult and the BioIndustry Association, launched by Sir Mark Walport, provides unique insights into the productivity of the UK’s drug discovery community and the challenges and opportunities it faces.

The first sector survey of its kind following the launch of the Life Sciences Industrial Strategy in November, focused on the SME community, shows the UK has great strengths in its scientific foundations. However, at a time of unprecedented industry change, urgent action is needed to make the R&D model more productive.

With the financial burden of disease rising faster than GDP due to an ageing population and the rise of chronic diseases, there is an urgent need for more cost-effective medicine development.

Despite this, around 40% of new drugs fail when they are first trialled in a patient and the majority fail at other stages of development.1 As a result, the number of drugs launched per $1 billion of R&D spend has fallen nearly thirtyfold in the last 40 years.2

This new report, based on surveys and more than 100 in-depth interviews with senior executives of UK drug discovery companies, shows that global R&D productivity is under unprecedented pressure. In response to this, world leading opportunities exist for the UK to reshape the medicines discovery process to develop medicines greatly needed by patients. The report highlights that:

  • global R&D productivity is under unprecedented pressure
  • the model of medicines R&D must be radically reshaped to meet patient needs
  • a key problem is reliance on using inadequate models for human diseases
  • commercialising emerging technology will require new models of collaboration
  • data science is now indispensable to medicines R&D: research data is now generated in such high volumes that the ability to harness it has become a critical factor in developing new medicines
  • it is imperative for the UK to provide industry with straightforward, well-governed access to consented patient data and human tissue samples – this is an acute problem for SMEs.

The report also found that the UK’s R&D community is highly fragmented in life sciences. Universities, teaching hospitals, medical charities, large pharmaceuticals and SMEs each possess some of the capabilities and expertise required for drug development. Consequently, collaboration is essential to develop new medicines successfully.

As part of this report the Medicines Discovery Catapult and the BioIndustry Association are calling on the community to address additional cross-cutting themes that require multi-stakeholder solutions:

  • maximise the supply of investable intellectual property
  • create more agile routes to enable small companies to work together easily, leading to clinical trials
  • increase access to stratified human trials
  • address the skills gap
  • address the gap in follow-on funding.

Chris Molloy, Chief Executive of the Medicines Discovery Catapult, said: “The UK has a strong heritage in medicines R&D and a high-profile strategy for our industry. However, in a globally competitive environment, we must now pull together nationally to support the innovators and build the best ecosystem for medicines discovery in the world.

It is our mission, along with our sister Catapult in Cell & Gene Therapy, to help make this happen, which is why we have harnessed the intelligence of the community in this report and have clear actions underway to catalyse positive change.”

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester, said: “Medicines R&D is critical for the health of the UK. This report provides vital insights for the SME and academic communities for the development of new medicines at a time of fast scientific and industrial change.”

“It also lays out the clear role of the Medicines Discovery Catapult. Its location in the northwest life sciences cluster will enable the UK community to access science and clinical expertise, which can help the SME community to pioneer a new drug discovery process.”

“Ultimately, this innovation will lead to medicines from the UK reaching patients faster, with lower risk of failure, maintaining our heritage position as one of the world’s best places for developing new targeted, high value medicines.”



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