Explosive Research...to What End?

Explosive Research...to What End?

05.05.11 | By Kate Connors

Andrew Sullivan, in The Daily Beast, directed my attention to an opinion piece on The New York Times's Opinionator blog about "the science gap" - in other words, how evolving science is changing the research landscape. Sullivan featured a quote from Stanford University's Dr. Ben Barres, saying "'developing a drug is a hundred times harder than getting a Nobel Prize.'" I'm sure Nobel winners may disagree, but hundreds of thousands of industry workers and researchers might nod their heads in agreement. The focus of the Times piece is how, despite a boost in basic research, challenges remain in translational research, which is the following step in the development process. In fact, the Times suggests, that boost in basic research poses just one more challenge to the already difficult process of drug development: "The explosion in biomedical sciences has made it virtually impossible for industry researchers to keep up. In 2010, more than 3,000 articles were published on multiple sclerosis alone, explained Tassie Collins, an immunologist who directed drug discovery" in the private sector.

She says, "'Information on a target [usually a protein that is implicated in a key biological process] gets published, and then it just lays there.... It's like in "Horton Hears a Who" - you're trying to find the little puffball that the Whos live on.'"

Unfortunately, Sullivan's piece suggests that a slowdown in new, groundbreaking treatments will lower health care costs. This sort of short-term thinking is what can often keep patients from receiving the most up-to-date care, which can, ultimately, lower overall costs by improving care on the front end.

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