Section: Biopharma Insights View all sections
There is a plethora of analytics reports, including ones by Deloitte, DKV Global, and Ernst and Young, all pointing out to a declining business performance of the pharmaceutical industry. They all convey a similar bottomline message: the decline is not due to a lack of innovation (the innovations are growing). And not because sales are falling or markets are shrinking (revenues are growing in general, and the markets are expanding with the expanding and ageing population). The key reason of the declining financial performance is the fact that research and development (R&D) costs are growing substantially faster over an average investment period, than the actual revenues over the same period. This kills operational profits, leading to a decline in the overall business gain. A direct consequence of that -- an increasingly stagnating industry, cutting sometimes promising R&D programs, jobs etc.
There are two more relevant questions here:
1) why R&D costs are growing faster than revenues, considering that technological progress is seemingly providing more and more optimal and powerful technologies to pharma companies at a constantly decreasing specific price (e.g. costs of computation, sequencing, screening and many other things are falling), and
2) what to do about it to reverse the decline in pharma industry performance?
(Last updated 08.10.2018)
The type of artificial intelligence (AI) which scares some of the greatest minds, like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, is called “general artificial intelligence” -- the one which can “think” pretty much like humans do, and which can quickly evolve into a dangerous “superintelligence”. There is a notion that it might be invented in the nearest decades, but today we are definitely not there yet. The AI which is making headlines these days is a “narrow artificial intelligence”, a limited type of machine “intelligence” able to solve only a specific task or a group of tasks. It can’t go anywhere beyond specifics of the problem for which it is designed, so apparently, it will not hurt anyone in the nearest time. But already now it can provide meaningful practical results on those narrow tasks, like natural language processing, image recognition, controlling self-driving cars, and helping develop new drugs more efficiently. With the ability to find hidden and unintuitive patterns in vast amounts of data in ways that no human can do, AI represents a considerable promise to transform many industries, including pharma and biotech.
Pharmaceutical companies are increasingly outsourcing research activities to academic and private contract research organizations (CROs) as a strategy to stay competitive and flexible in a world of exponentially growing knowledge, increasingly sophisticated technologies and an unstable economic environment.
The R&D tasks that firms choose to outsource include a wide spectrum of activities from basic research to late-stage development: genetic engineering, target validation, assay development, hit exploration and lead optimization (hit candidates-as-a-service), safety and efficacy tests in animal models, and clinical trials involving humans.
According to a recent analytical report by Visiongain, drug discovery outsourcing will continue to grow over the next decade and will rise to a $43.7 billion dollar industry by 2026, as compared to an estimated 19.2 billion in 2016 (or $21.2 billion according to Kalorama Information). This is in line with Vantage’s fresh alliance benchmarking study, revealing that over 80% of bio-pharma respondents report increased alliance activity compared to five years ago. Getting ideas and expertise from external sources is a well-established practice in the pharmaceutical industry with about one-third of all drugs in the pipelines of the top ten pharmaceutical companies initially developed elsewhere, according to a 2014 WSJ article by Jonathan D. Rockoff.
(Edited version of this post originally appeared in Forbes)
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most adaptable to change” -- Leon C. Megginson
Last year brought about new hope and even more hype around the idea of applying artificial intelligence (AI) for “revolutionizing” drug discovery research -- via machines being able to “learn” chemistry and biology from vast amounts of experimental data to propose potent drug candidates, accurately predict their properties and possible toxicity risks. It is supposed to dramatically minimize failures in clinical trials -- saving R&D budgets, time, and most importantly, lives of patients.