Archive for the 'R&D' Category

Biotech Needs to Focus on Demonstrating Product Value

VLUU L110  / Samsung L110Ernst & Young recently released its annual biotechnology industry report, Beyond Borders: Matters of Evidence, stating that while the major players are performing well, it is essential that small- to mid-size biotech companies focus on demonstrating the value of products in their pipelines instead of just creating a drug that works. If not, they will lose out in a challenging environment, especially now that there is a global shift towards evidence-based healthcare. Read more »

Opportunities and Challenges in the Development of Stem-Cell Therapies

Stem cells are being developed to treat a diverse set of conditions, including spinal cord injury, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, macular degeneration, Parkinsons disease, and Type I diabetes. But the challenges in moving from the laboratory to the clinic are formidable.  The California-based biotech company, Geron, pioneered clinical trials using embryonic stem cells, with a Phase I trial using oligodendrocyte precursors derived from embryonic stem cells to treat spinal cord injury approved in 2009. In November 2011, however, Geron announced it would be discontinuing all of its stem-cell development work, citing cost and regulatory complexity as factors in that decision.

At the BIO International Convention, a panel will convene to discuss the current landscape for developing stem cell therapies in a breakout session titled Opportunities and Challenges in Developing Innovative Stem Cell Therapies. BioPharm International spoke with one of the session’s presenters, Dr. Armand Keating, Epstein Chair in Cell Therapy and Transplantation, University of Toronto about the challenges facing developers.  According to Keating, funding remains the biggest challenge in moving from laboratory to clinic.  He points out that unlike small-molecule development, stem-cell development is still very much rooted in academia. The traditional sources of funding available to academics are ill-suited or inadequate to fund preclinical validation studies, manufacturing scale-up studies, or the clinical trials themselves. While an organization such as the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is able to provide some funding   for early-stage clinical trials, later-stage trials will be far too expensive to be carried out at academic research centers, he says.


Clarification of statement in podcast: There have been approximately one million bone marrow transplants performed worldwide since 1959.

Rare Disease Day: Progress and Potential

The US Orphan Drug Act of 1983 defines a rare disease as one that affects fewer than 200,000.  There are nearly 7000 rare diseases affecting nearly 30 million—or nearly one in 10—Americans, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD).

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that approximately 80% of rare diseases are genetic in origin; about half affect children. The challenges of facing a chronic, disabling, severe, or even life-threatening disease is compounded by difficulties in receiving an accurate diagnosis, and the lack of therapies to address the condition.

For the past six years, the last day in February has been designated Rare Disease Day. First observed in Europe in 2008 by the European Rare Disease Organization, the initiative expanded to the US in 2009. In 2012, more than 60 countries participated.

This year, events will be held worldwide on Feb. 28 to bring the cause of rare diseases to the attention of patients, the public, the medical profession, and policy makers. For example, the NIH is sponsoring a two-day conference for researchers and policymakers, including FDA representatives, to raise awareness of rare diseases, bring stakeholders closer together, coordinate policy actions between nations, and emphasize rare disease research and the search for new therapeutics.

The Orphan Drug Act provides tax credits and marketing incentives for sponsors to develop products for rare diseases. Since 1983, the number of applications submitted and products designated as orphan drugs has continued to grow. More than 400 drugs and biologic products for rare diseases have been approved.  In contrast, fewer than 10 such products supported by industry came to market between 1973 and 1983.

Drug makers have financial incentives to develop orphan drugs. A 2012 report from Thomson Reuters, The Economic Power of Orphan Drugs, estimated the orphan-drug market at the end of 2011 at $50 billion globally, or 6% of total pharmaceutical sales. However, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 25.8% for 2001 to 2010, compared to a 20.1% CAGR for a matched group of non-orphan control drugs, and an increasing number of orphan-drug approvals, suggests that the growth rate of orphan drugs will exceed that of non-orphan control drugs over the next 30 years, according to the report. Because many orphan drugs are biologics, they are less susceptible to generic competition than small-molecule drugs.

The impact of the smaller population needing the orphan drug is offset by the high cost of the drugs. In fact, the Thomson Reuters study found that 29% of orphan drugs have annual sales greater than $1 billion, about the same percentage as non-orphan drugs.

While the Orphan Drug Act has spurred the development of life-saving and life-improving therapies for individuals with rare diseases, it also has provided financial incentives for drug companies to invest in these narrow specialties. However, as the sponsors of Rare Disease Day point out, there is still much work to be done.

President Obama’s Plans for Healthcare Reform and Job Growth

President Obama’s State of the Union Address on Feb. 12, 2013 touched on some issues that may directly impact the pharmaceutical industry: healthcare reform, innovation, and job creation. So how has the pharmaceutical industry responded?

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Pharma’s Shifting Needs for Scientific Talent

Developing and maintaining the right labor pool is an ongoing challenge for any industry, and it is one that the pharmaceutical industry also is facing. Recent attention in the pharmaceutical industry has focused on the restructuring that has occurred and that is still occurring among the large pharmaceutical companies. And while re-allocating resources, including labor resources, is always a crucial task for companies, it is a challenge made even more difficult amidst shifting industry fundamentals and a demand for higher productivity from scientific talent.

The pharmaceutical industry requires employees with a high-end scientific skill set, and PwC’s 2012 Global CEO Survey indicates that pharmaceutical companies are having a hard time finding the right people. A recent report by PwC’s Health Research Institute (HRI) takes a look at how changes in R&D models have affected the pharmaceutical workforce.

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Pharma’s Most Productive Innovators

Stephanie Sutton Pharm Tech EuropeConsultancy firm IDEA Pharma has released what it calls a ‘Productive Innovation Index’, which ranks pharmaceutical companies based on their ability to successfully commercialise new innovations. The company has been published the index for three years and uses publicly available data to reach its conclusions. Read more »

New Global Alliance Aims To Speed Up Academic Drug Discovery

Six of the world’s leading health research centres have joined forces to form a global alliance that seeks to strengthen international academic and not-for-profit drug development. The aim of the Global Alliance of Leading Drug Discovery and Development Centres, which consists of organisations from Europe and North America, is to accelerate the translation of academic research into usable medicines and therapies. Read more »

Will “Robust Pipeline” Yield More New Drugs?

Jill Wechsler Washington EditorBiopharmaceutical companies are touting their huge investment in R&D, which has filled the drug pipeline with more potential first-in-class medicines, including orphan drugs, personalized medicines and new therapies based on novel scientific strategies. A report by the Analysis Group for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) documents more than 5,000 new medicines in the pipeline globally, many for untreated diseases and life-threatening conditions. The promise is that this more robust pipeline will lead to more new critical therapies for patients. Read more »

Pharma 2012 Layoffs


When Will Pharmacogenomics Live up to its Promise?

Stephanie Sutton Pharm Tech EuropeIn about 20 years and with a cost of around $10 billion. That’s the estimate given by researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in the US who used quantitative modelling to forecast how much time and money would be required before pharmacogenomics could be expected to be used in clinical care. Read more »

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