The topic of “open-source” drug discovery is an interesting (and potentially important) one. It just keeps coming up, but one of the problems with it is that it presents a terrible opportunity for vagueness. Too much of what I’ve read on the subject is hand-waving.
I’m afraid that the key parts of this column fall into the same category. It’s by Jackie Hunter, formerly of GlaxoSmithKline. The lead-up parts of the piece are fine, where she lays out some of the problems facing the industry. But then we get this vision:
In the future, the most effective pharmaceutical companies will be hubs at the center of a network of collaborators and suppliers, focusing internally on their core competencies, which might include medicinal chemistry, execution of clinical trials, or sales and marketing. They will facilitate interactions across their network to stimulate the development of innovation ecosystems.
The resulting opportunities to expand beyond traditional products and markets will enable pharmaceutical companies to evolve into companies that offer a range of health-care solutions. These will include not only prescription medicines, but also diagnostics, branded generics, and technologies that support personalized medicine, as well as so-called “neutraceuticals” and other “wellness options.”
And that’s it; that’s the payoff. We’ll all just hop to it, enabling and facilitating, expanding and evolving, stimulating and focusing. None of those are concrete verbs suggesting real courses of action. Whenever you see someone slip into that sort of talk, you can be sure that (at the very least) they have difficulty communicating whatever specific ideas they have. Or (more likely) that they don’t have any specific ideas to tell you about at all.
Not that I can blame Jackie Hunter. I don’t have a lot of good suggestions at the moment, either. But if you read that column closely, it says (on the one hand) that the problems of the industry are so large that single drug companies probably can’t deal with them. Fine. Then it goes on to say that dealing with them will probably reduce the size of drug company R&D organizations. The connection between those two ideas is presumably hidden in that ball of fuzz I quoted above.