from the go-ask-alice dept.
Derek Lowe brings us a paper on the problems in drug discovery
Here's a really interesting paper from consultants Jack Scannell and Jim Bosley in PLoS ONE, on the productivity crisis in drug discovery. Several things distinguish it: for one, it's not just another "whither the drug industry" think piece, of which we have plenty already. This one get[s] quantitative, attempting to figure out what the real problems are and to what degree each contribute.
As they finish up by saying, we have to realize what the "domains of validity" are for our models. Newtonian physics is a tremendously accurate model until you start looking at very small particles, or around very strong gravitational fields, or at things with speeds approaching that of light. Similarly, in drug discovery, we have areas that where our models (in vitro and in vivo) are fairly predictive and areas where they really aren't. We all know this, qualitatively, but it's time for everyone to understand just what a big deal it really is, and how hard it is to overcome. Thinking in these terms could make us value more the data that directly reflect on predictive value and model validity (read the paper for more on this).
Be sure to read the comments at the end of Dr Lowe's article.
For those who may not recognize the name, this is the Derek Lowe who is author of: Things I Won't Work With and Things I'm Glad I Don't Do. He has a gift for writing that conveys complicated concepts in a very readable and entertaining fashion.
As the world knows, we face an emerging virus threat in the Wuhan coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak. The problem is, right now there are several important things that we don't know about the situation. The mortality rate, the ease of human-human transmission, the rate of mutation of the virus (and how many strains we might be dealing with – all of these need more clarity. Unfortunately, we've already gone past the MERS outbreak in severity (which until now was the most recent new coronavirus to make the jump into humans). If we're fortunate, though, we'll still have something that will be worrisome, but not as bad as (say) the usual flu numbers (many people don't realize that influenza kills tens of thousands of people in the US each year). The worst case, though, is something like 1918, and we really, really don't need that.
[Ed note: The linked story is by Derek Lowe who writes a "commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry". He is perhaps best known for his "Things I Won't Work With" blog entries which are as hilarious as they are... eye opening. I have found him to be a no-nonsense writer who "tells things as they are", holding no punches. The whole story is worth reading as he clearly explains what a coronavirus is, about the current one that reportedly originated in Wuhan, China, what could be done about it, how long that would likely take, and what can be done for those who have already been infected. --martyb]
Previous Stories Referencing Derek Lowe:
Machine Learning Comes to Biochemistry
Ignition! The Funniest, Most Accessible Book on Rocket Science is Being Reissued
Another Failed Alzheimer's Disease Therapy
Marathon Pharmaceuticals is Part of the Problem
Lobbying Results in FDA Approval for Controversial Drug
"Right to Try" New Experimental Medicine and the Value of Experts
Cancer Hazard vs. Risk - Glyphosate
A Terrific Paper on the Problems of Drug Discovery
Things I Won't Work With