Monday, April 26, 2010

Designing Innovative Medical Research Systems: Patients Are the Hidden Asset

by Gillian Parrish, Manager of Alliance Development and Communications, FasterCures
A panel of experts from across the medical research spectrum who convened today at the Milken Institute’s Global Conference said that while the capital for medical innovation is there, how those funds are allocated will dictate progress towards cures. The discussion—designing innovative medical research systems—explored new models emerging from the biotech and pharmaceutical industries that are clearing the way for faster medical progress.

Moderator Debra Lappin, President of the Council for American Medical Innovation, set the stage by outlining the tectonic shifts in medical research: from new and emerging interdependence of sectors, to flattening of federal funds through NIH, to a newly risk-averse environment in which high risk, high reward research is the first to be cut.

While concerns about gaps have opened up, overall, the medical research system has worked spectacularly well, said Chris Coburn, Executive Director, Cleveland Clinic Innovations. Coburn said “easy” achievements have already been accomplished, thus moving the needle becomes that much more complicated.

Technology, said Usama Malik, VP and Head of Worldwide Innovation, Pfizer, is the lynchpin that will decentralize industry and empower consumers. And technology is what’s needed to cultivate open innovation, which he said, is the model of the future, enabling a free flow of ideas allowing the system to pick the best/most impactful ones earlier on.

The group also discuss the growing disconnect between academia and industry, and the critical need to better bridge innovation from universities into commercial markets.

Scott Johnson, President and Founder, Myelin Repair Foundation, said that we need to reframe academic model to produce results more relevant to commercial industry—over 800,000 academic medical papers are published each year and industry has a hard time wading through them to find gems; we need apples-to-apples comparison.

“Top-down solutions won’t work,” Johnson added. “ You can’t force progress through policy, but you can incent collaboration.”

Despite wide agreement amongst insiders that public/private collaboration is essential, externally it is conflict of interest, rather than confluence of interest, that—unfortunately—makes headlines.

Among the factors that have led to an unclear regulatory pathway is a lack of understanding of the relevance of science in commercial marketplace, said Lesa Mitchell, VP, Advancing Innovation, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

A better understanding of the tradeoff and dynamic tension between risks and rewards, particularly from the patient’s perspective, is key to accelerating medical progress.

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