Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Are we there yet? Navigating the Path through the Valley of Death

by Margaret Anderson, Executive Director, FasterCures

Characterizing the abyss separating basic and clinical research with tangible and intangible landmarks, we held our fifth annual blue-sky brainstorming session in partnership with Esquire magazine. FasterCures hosted a provocative and productive discussion last week on “Crossing the Valley of Death” with a group of thinkers and innovators from across the medical research spectrum. Participants represented large pharmaceutical companies, small biotechnology companies, venture capital funds, universities, and nonprofit foundations that fund research. There was broad agreement on the significant challenges we all face – scientific, financial, and cultural – in moving promising research across the valley and that we are at an inflection point where more action and less talk is required.

The objectives of the session were:

  • To hear about new models of R&D collaboration and highlight lessons learned from them, and
  • To identify broader applications of existing models and opportunities for new collaboration mechanisms.

10 themes that emerged from the discussion:

  1. A fundamental restructuring of the system is what's needed if the biopharmaceutical industry is to survive and thrive and patients are to benefit from innovation. The rest of the world is innovating outside the constraints of the U.S. system.
  2. We need to redefine the process to make it cheaper, more sustainable.
  3. We need to get beyond buzzwords like “open innovation” and “collaborative research,” and dig in to create standards for intellectual property, precompetitive research, collaborative contracting, or we will never be able to scale up models that exist.
  4. We need to find ways to increase the output of valuable intellectual property, not just any intellectual property.
  5. While we can’t predict the successful business models of the future, we can create the conditions that will allow for disruptive innovation.
  6. We need to change the terms of the conversation – we need to talk more about capital efficiency and not stop at building capital, address the issue of patents but also really focus on productivity.
  7. Decision-making in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries is not entirely rational or evidence-driven -- how can we change that?
  8. There is a crying need for better communication to and understanding by the public and policymakers about the process and roles of the players in medical research. We need to elevate success stories of collaboration as a means to thread the needle more and create a fabric of innovation. It’s time these models transcend the patchwork of case studies and best practices and become the overarching approach that’s sorely missing.
  9. We need to have the right incentives in place. Universities need to incentivize their faculty towards commercialization and collaboration with industry. They need to change their internal metrics of success. Federal and state policies need to create incentives for the results we want to see.
  10. We need to rationalize the allocation of our resources -- money, time, and human capital.

A variety of actionable suggestions, for FasterCures and other players, also emerged throughout the day. Stay tuned, we’ll summarize those in another blog post.

We will also be producing a meeting report on the topics that were discussed throughout the day. We expect the discussion to inform the program at this year’s Partnering for Cures conference in New York on December 14-15. And the action items will feed into FasterCures’ strategic planning for next year.

Most importantly, this was an opportunity to have a candid, honest discussion of where medical research is and where we need to go, among those steeped in the system but with the foresight and will power necessary to infuse life into the valley of death. Onward.


Join us!


Unknown said...

This is a great start to finding new approaches for treating intractible diseases. What are the plans to keep the ball rolling? It would be a shame if all of this ends up as another report gathering dust.

Justine Lam said...

Wow! This graphic and all those ideas shows just how complex the problem is. I'm printing this out so that the Myelin Repair Foundation can do a deep-dive into all the problems.

I'd like to encourage all of the thinkers and innovators in "“Crossing the Valley of Death” to join us tomorrow for "Breakthrough to Cures" an online idea-generating game to develop faster cures for patients. http://info.breakthroughstocures.org