Partnering for Cures panel “Beyond business as usual: Disrupting the biopharma business model,” a distinguished group of panelists discussed both the problems with the current bio-pharma business model and possible disruptive solutions that would make the system more effective.
Moderator Gautam Jaggi of Ernst & Young’s Global Life Sciences Center started off the conversation by stating that as big pharma is experiencing ever increasing development times and costs, “The time has literally never been better to make changes to the R&D system through disruption.”
Tomasz Sablinski of Transparency Life Sciences and Celtic Therapeutics pointed out that it is not the people involved in R&D that are causing the problems, such as high failure rates and increasing costs, but something inherent in the playing field: “These people are smart as individuals, but there is something about the system that causes smart people to create poor results.”
All panelists agreed that biopharma companies need to figure out more quickly which targets will not work (also known as “fast fail”). As Stephen Marc Paul of Weill Cornell Medical College noted, “Last stage attrition is killing these companies. We need to figure out earlier in the process which drugs will not work so that we can create a pipeline of late-stage molecules with a higher probability of success.”
The sharing of ideas and data is another theme that kept surfacing in the discussion. Representing patient advocacy groups, Kathy Giusti of the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation stated that “Patients are investors too, and they can put pressure on academic centers to make their data public.” According to Giusti, this is just one example of how patient groups can be a disruptive force when their passion and sense of urgency is given a seat at the table.
Bernard Munos of InnoThink noted that sometimes “The translational challenges might be too big for one company alone; the science is just too tough. Companies can wear themselves out. Companies should try to work with their competitors and join forces.”
Ben Shapiro of PureTech Ventures believes that real disruption will come when big industry realizes that “Pharma’s role should be to invest in the best ideas out there” and that instead of doing their own internal research, pharma companies should be focused on stepping in where venture capital has left a hole and finding the best idea from the outside.
If biopharma companies would take a more nimble and innovative approach to finding and sharing the best ideas, both from inside and outside their company walls, we would see progress accelerate, panelists agreed.