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Resurrecting R&D

Posted November 08, 2023

Ray Blanco

By Ray Blanco

Resurrecting R&D

Biotech has a big problem. In fact, when it comes down to it, it’s the biggest issue they could possibly face…

It’s getting harder and harder to produce new drugs…

Over the past few years, there has been a decline in the number of new drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Last year, the FDA approved 37 novel drugs, the lowest number since 2016. 

Moreover, the peak sales per new drug are dropping, from $398 million in 2021 to $340 million last year.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the cost of research and development has been skyrocketing. Last year, developing a new drug from discovery to market cost $2.3 billion, a rise of $298 million over 2021.

The pharmaceutical industry invests more in research and development than any other industry in the world, and allocations of revenues spent on R&D has risen from about 13% 20 years ago to over 25% today.

The rising cost of the drug discovery pipeline shows up at your pharmacy in the form of higher prices. If you’ve wondered why your prescriptions have gotten so expensive, the increasing difficulty of development is the main reason.

There are a number of reasons for the increases in time and cost to get a new drug to market. A key one is that the “low-hanging fruit” of compounds and targets have already been picked. 

Another factor is that as common diseases are treated, the untreated diseases become more complicated due to, in part, the increased age of the population.

The increased complexity of disease means an increased complexity of clinical trials. Which, of course, means an increased cost. 

These rising costs are leading some pharmaceutical companies to reduce their investment in research and development. If this continues to happen, it is likely to lead to a further decline in new drug discovery in the future.

It also creates huge opportunities for companies that can leverage new technology to close the growing gap.

An AI Drug Discovery Engine

The slowing productivity of the existing drug discovery methods is tragic for patients waiting for new treatments, but it has created an opportunity to revolutionize the way new drugs are developed.

This revolution has actually already begun and promises to reverse the trends we’ve been seeing over the past decade, improving our ability to create the lifesaving therapies of the future.

As is the case with more and more industries, AI is totally reinventing drug-discovery and has accomplished improved results in a fraction of the time.

Specifically, researchers from the University of British Columbia have harnessed AI to create new antibody-based drugs. Their focus was not to develop their own drugs, but rather to leverage its AI-driven drug discovery engine to enable the entire industry to boost productivity and bring their drugs to market faster and cheaper.

The company’s vision is to build a tech-based engine, including AI, to re-engineer the part of drug discovery that happens after you have an idea, after a potential disease target has been specified, and bring it to the point where it is ready to go into human clinical trials.

Their AI-driven engine, coupled with human experts, supposedly can bring an idea from target to clinic in half the time, with better-quality candidates that stand a better chance of succeeding in trials.

Computers can screen and generate new compounds millions of times faster than humans can, so this discovery platform is also highly scalable and can even help solve previously unsolvable problems in the development of antibody therapeutics.

This is a major breakthrough in drug discovery, as it has the potential to accelerate the development of new treatments for a wide range of diseases, including cancer, infectious diseases and autoimmune disorders.

What used to be done in years can now be done in months. 

This AI engine is also more cost-effective than traditional drug discovery methods, as it eliminates the need for expensive and time-consuming steps such as antibody library construction and screening.

I’ve already told you how an AI program could have simulated the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of lives. Now with AI revolutionizing how drugs are brought to market, we could be at the beginning of the entire medical industry being flipped on its head.

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