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posted by martyb on Friday February 19 2016, @08:23AM   Printer-friendly
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.

Original Submission

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In The Pipeline: Coronavirus 45 comments

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]

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 19 2016, @10:52AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 19 2016, @10:52AM (#306804)

    Nature probably evolved it somewhere in some exotic species. Traditional and folk medicine may even point the way.
    It certainly paid off big here, Nobel Prize big: []

    But better hurry because the ideas are going quick: []

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 19 2016, @01:33PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 19 2016, @01:33PM (#306871)

    The medical research community has spent decades starving and driving the people away who would come up with and test legitimate theories for what is going on, preferring to instead check the "null hypothesis". Now we are facing the unsurprising consequence that medical research is just as unreliable as other fields that do that (psychology, sociology).

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 19 2016, @01:53PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 19 2016, @01:53PM (#306886)

      Another interesting aspect is that the substitution of pseudo-statistics for science has been implemented primarily under the umbrella of being "evidence-based".

  • (Score: 2) by fadrian on Friday February 19 2016, @05:15PM

    by fadrian (3194) on Friday February 19 2016, @05:15PM (#306983) Homepage

    I was drawn to his stuff via the "things I won't work with" topics, but stayed for the drug discovery information. His information (from what I can tell) is accurate and unbiased. He describes the world of drug discovery and manufacturing very clearly. His balanced view is appreciated.

    That is all.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 19 2016, @07:05PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 19 2016, @07:05PM (#307022)

      I'm another fan. His blog is great and the people posting comments are very well informed.

    • (Score: 2) by Snotnose on Friday February 19 2016, @07:48PM

      by Snotnose (1623) on Friday February 19 2016, @07:48PM (#307045)

      Another big fan (obviously, I'm the subby). Started reading him when I stumbled across Things I Won't Work With, moved over to Things I Won't Do, and now hit his blog daily.

      Guy is a pretty good writer.

      When the dust settled America realized it was saved by a porn star.