PharmExec Blog

Biomedical Innovation in Trouble

The time and cost of developing new drugs are rising, venture capitalists make no return on investments in biopharma R&D, and other countries are boosting support in this area while U.S. policy makers propose funding cuts for the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This bleak picture of the “state of biomedical innovation” was painted by experts at a seminar in June sponsored by the Brookings Institution Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform.

There is a “relentless decline” in biopharma R&D productivity, as measured by the number of new drugs approved compared to spending on R&D, pointed out Jonathan Leff of Warburg Pincus. He and others noted a drop in first-time venture capital financing for new life sciences companies, along with ever-increasing product development times.

NIH director Francis Collins warned that the U.S. faces erosion of its scientific leadership and competitiveness as visionary scientists find research funding increasingly difficult to obtain. NIH’s new National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATs), he noted, provides a means for cutting the current 14-year development timeline for new therapies.

FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg cited the impact that reimbursement and immigration policy on innovation, and that FDA strives to serve as a gateway, and not a barrier, to advancing the development of new medical products.

U.S. Still Dominant

Amgen chairman Kevin Shearer sounded a more optimistic tone, noting that the American biotech industry continues to “dominate the world,” and that no other country “is even close” to the U.S. in providing the financial support and scientific infrastructure for biopharma innovation. If you develop an innovative medicine in America, he stated, “you’ll be rewarded.”  Leff similarly acknowledged a positive effect from increased scrutiny on the cost of medical innovations because it supports a system where “real innovations that make a difference to get paid for.”

The main strategy for the research community, said Shearer, is to continue investing in NIH, which he termed “a national treasure,” and to “leave FDA officials alone” by de-politicizing the agency.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted August 2, 2012 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    Amgen chairman Kevin Shearer: “If you develop an innovative medicine in America you’ll be rewarded.”
    Yeeeahh, just as Amgen rewarded Prof. Eugene Goldwasser! What a great irony.

  2. Posted August 2, 2012 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    FDA serves as a gateway alright. Unfortunately it’s a gateway to handing over dominance in science and technology to the Chinese. By using U.S. dollars, and personnel as faculty at Peking University’s pharmaceutical technology program, the agency (along with a couple of large Pharma Co’s) is teaching the Chinese how to use U.S. knowledge along with their cheap labor to become the world’s next dominant science and technology leader. Funding inspections is one thing, but actively teaching them how to win in a competitive world is crossing the line. It is no coincidence that the next great technologies such as biosimilars are coming out of China and southeast Asia.
    http://www.gabionline.net/layout/set/print/content/view/full/264

  3. Željko Svedruži?
    Posted February 19, 2013 at 4:51 am | Permalink

    Quote: “Amgen chairman Kevin Shearer sounded a more optimistic tone, noting that the American biotech industry continues to “dominate the world,” and that no other country “is even close” to the U.S. in providing the financial support and scientific infrastructure for biopharma innovation.”

    actually means: ‘In the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king’

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