Derek Lowe brings us a paper [sciencemag.org] on the problems in drug discovery
Here’s a really interesting paper [plos.org] 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 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.