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Drug Development for Academics

I have a book review out in Nature Chemical Biology of A Practical Guide to Drug Development in Academia. As you’ll see, I liked it, finding it a very useful guide to real-world drug discovery for people who are interested in what they’d need to do to get into it.
Here’s a quote that some readers may well appreciate:

We – as academics – are often under the impression that drug development, unlike our own basic research, is a rather mundane and straightforward process. In fact, those of us who have spent time in the biopharmaceutical industry have found that drug discovery and development lies at the intersection of basic research and applied science and requires a great deal of creativity and rigor. Exceptional scientists populate both the biopharmaceutical industry and the regulatory agencies. Drug development can be every bit as challenging and require even more persistence than traditional academic research.

Beyond these general points, there’s a lot of very solid practical advice in the book. I definitely recommend it to academic researchers, and to people starting out in the drug industry who’d like an overview of the whole process as well.

11 comments on “Drug Development for Academics”

  1. PharmaHeretic says:

    Following that logic, the progressive inability of the pharma R&D sector to discover innovative and truly outcome changing drugs during the last two decades is a sign of their growing incompetence and irrelevance. So all those pharma scientists who have lost their jobs since 2005 or 2008 truly deserved it.
    If, on the other hand, the progressive failure to discover innovative and truly outcome-changing drugs is due to increasing credentialism, centralization and financialization of drug discovery- then perhaps having more people with diverse mindsets work on the same problems from different angles is a good idea.
    BTW, have you been closely involved in the discovery of any marketed drug- even a “me too”?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Ditto #1 above: Given its shameful track record over the past decade or so, why on earth would anyone want to “learn” about drug discovery and/or development from industry???
    Plenty to learn from its mistakes, I suppose. I.e, how NOT to do it.

  3. AnonAnonAnon says:

    Please don’t feed the trolls. It only encourages them to come back and prevents them from learning to survive on their own. Thank you.

  4. Ann O Mouse says:

    Nice review, Derek. I think your suggestion of widening the audience is great. It will be interesting to see the Amazon reviews, at least some of which will likely be harsh. Still, for all Pharmas failings, and we all know what they are, I can’t think of a single academic who moved into drug discovery only to find it was a lot easier than he or she expected.

  5. Mous says:

    From the point of view of someone who has spent the best part of 3 years trying to convince various academic institutions that their drug discovery efforts would significanlty benefit from the input of experienced industry scientists, this review (and I imagine book) ticks all the right boxes.
    The problem is that those who really need to hear it (the Profs) will almost certainly look at it and think, “ah yes, good point, but it clearly doesnt apply to me because I’m the very smartest of the smart…”

  6. Biotech Capitalist says:

    BC always seeking to leverage market forces… Traditionally, the academic has no oversight over their work whatsoever. Perhaps academic drug discovery (or more aptly academic initiated drug discovery) could significantly benefit from inserting seasoned industry/business/med chem expertise into two rate limiting steps of current academic lifecycle: the tech transfer office (who is the decider whether IP is filed) and the funding agency. Given pressure from these focus points, academic work will naturally improve its translatability as it will be forced to.
    As an aside, it is silly to talk about academic or industry drug discovery. Everyone with sense realizes significant contributions come from both. As large pharma seeks increasingly the small biotech/academic discovery expertise and funding problems necessitate academics seeking non-NIH financing, a convergence of goals/expertise is underway. Market forces (NIH budget flatness and large pharma less-than-desired productivity) are going to improve both the basic science, its translatability and the productivity of drug discovery.
    I am very optimistic that the larger ecosystem will coalesce around its strengths.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I have to agree with #6. I’ve seen a number of scientists jump back into academia in non-PI non-postdoc roles as a result of layoffs. And I’ve seen a bunch of PIs spin off companies of varying success some of which have been bought out by big pharma. I see this increasing as PIs tap refugees from industry for technical expertise or ask them to play larger roles in the companies that they start up.

  8. steve says:

    I knew I was in trouble when I was in a meeting with an Ivy League professor whose technology was licensed by our company and I told him that the way he was insisting on our doing something would make the release assays a nightmare. He argued that he was right and then finally looked at me and said: “So what exactly do you mean by a ‘release assay'”?

  9. Wearing Crimson says:

    Glad you like it.
    SPARK is an interesting combination of academic scientists, biotech founders/scientists, and people who have spent some time in large Pharma (particularly Roche Palo Alto, which was just up the way).

  10. Donkeys says:

    Off topic …
    Isn’t the name Cardinal?

  11. Sulphonamide says:

    Personally, as an academic doing drug discovery (with at least a track record of success to wave around, even if luck has played far more of a role than expertise or competence), I am desperate to receive advice from guys in industry whenever there is the slightest opportunity. Far from being dismissive of industry and pointing out its (perceived) failures, many of us place industry guys on a pedestal and take what opinions we hear as fact (and only wish we had that level of expertise and resources). The issue is getting hold of the right people and somehow gaining access to what you know and often what you found out 15 years ago about the target we are proposing as the solution to all our problems…but if it isn’t published, how can we know…and why would you bother publishing it if it didn’t work? “Industry clubs” open to all academics? Maybe a central resource to whom we can confidentially or non-confidentially submit our ideas for feedback?

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