Cost vs. value in drug discovery
When it comes to drug development, the bare facts are that it takes a great deal of cash. The launch of a finished product is estimated to be in excess of $1 billion, meaning the effective analysis into the potential value a drug is likely to have, is significant. Drug discovery and development is rightly recognized as one of the most financially risky industries, as the odds of producing a commercially successful drug that passes preclinical and clinical trials is very low. So called ‘failed’ endeavors still contribute to the field of knowledge however, and should not be considered valueless.
That being said, small biotech companies can really suffer following a single failed attempt to push a candidate through to market. So how can you help ensure success as best you can? As a helpful first step, more emphasis should be put on quality rather than quantity, as the more hits that are generated, the higher the cost is likely to be, but if the hits are not of high quality, the risk of failure is not necessarily reduced. Taking fewer high quality compounds through to the latter stages of the process is far more cost effective than working with a plethora of weaker leads.
Outsourcing as a means of reducing cost can be effective, but working with trusted partners is pivotal, as there is a certain amount of risk added when you are not under direct control of various stages of the process. There are also key differences between outsourcing your research to companies from different countries, contract research organization (CROs) from the US and UK tending to be more expensive than those in Japan and China. CROs in these parts of Asia come with associated risk however, as they can have a tendency to focus on high throughput at lost cost, rather than on the quality of the hit and lead molecules in production.
Nonetheless, outsourcing can be a powerful tool, in that it can seriously reduce the hidden costs associated the process, such as wages, consumables, and cost of property.
The impact of project timelines in drug discovery
In addition, the overall timeline of a project has obvious implications for its cost. Sometimes large pharma can offer services free of charge, subject to their agreed involvement if a compound of interest is under development. A fair warning must be made, however, as large pharma can work to long timelines that can have a knock on effect for smaller companies; working with CROs can be advantageous in that their timeframes can be shorter as experts in CROs will process many projects in one year. This gives them the experience and resources available to process with fewer delays.
All in all, time and money are valuable resources and there is often little wiggle room in this industry. Conducting rigorous cost versus value analysis on every potential drug lead can be the difference between life and death for an emerging biotechnology company.
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