with the announcement by GSK, last February, of the closure of six European research centers we assisted to the last in time of a series of actions whose impact is difficult to predict, not only for the business organization of pharmaceutical industries, but also for the way in which drug discovery will be pursued in the future. As an Italian, I was particularly hit by the fate of the GSK research center in Verona, also because this only the last of a series of actions which have severely restructured the pharmaceutical industry in this country. But what we are watching at is clearly a worldwide phenomenon, which deserves comments and, possibly, actions.
A number of commentaries have appeared in the scientific and in the specialized press, over the last months, discussing the causes and the impact that concepts like merging, geographical reorganization, externalization, in-licensing strategies will have on the Big Pharma’s business model. What is probably missing, is a debate on the actions and reactions that bodies like academia, SME/Biotech, and also learned societies, should take to face the rapidly changing scenario of pharmaceutical research.
No doubts that Big Pharma are trying to adapt their business operation models to the next years’ challenges, above all the wave of blockbuster patent expirations. This is clearly done trying to preserve the shareholder’s primary interest, but it will certainly affect the global way in which drug research will be conducted in the close future. The question is whether academia or SME are ready to cope with these challenges. A shared opinion is that next years will see growing opportunities for Universities, start-ups and biotechs, as a lot of what is now called pre-clinical research is likely to be externalized. Are these bodies ready to take the challenge? Just to mention examples, an issue that academia should seriously consider in the next few years is the protection of intellectual properties and the technological transfer. As the discovery phases will be transferred to academic centers, these latter should be ready to adapt themselves as drug discovery centers, where the preservation and exploitation of the value of a drug candidate will be a must. How this will combine the intrinsic mission of University of disseminating knowledge and promoting free circulation of data, ideas and persons, is matter of debate. Small enterprises and start-ups will have new opportunities but also new challenges. A start-up or a small enterprise will be expected to reach a critical mass they should have, either in terms of work-power or product portfolio, to develop candidates up to advanced clinical phases, as it seems to be the future orientation.
Finally, learned societies. They represent the community of researchers and should ideally be the incubator for new ideas and visions. Not only. They should probably consolidate their role as stakeholders with respect to Big Pharma and Governs. Clearly, the two things go together, as the capacity to influence strategic decisions will be measured in terms of representation of the whole community.
MedChemWatch could be a place where a debate starts. In this issue, we present a perspective by Paolo Pevarello (Newron Pharmaceuticals, Milan) in which the challenges and the opportunities for SME/start-ups are discussed. This ideally follows the last issue’s perspective on research outsourcing (http://www.efmc.info/medchemwatch-2009-3/perspective.php), and anticipates further contribution which will appear in the next issues.
The present issue is the last of cycle initiated two years ago. During these years, with 8 numbers so far issued (www.efmc.info/medchemwatch), we have seen a growing number of contacts and readers, although the active participation was less than expected. Starting from the next issue, expected in July, MedChemWatch will be delivered together with MedChemComm. This will certainly open up a new life for the newsletter, as the visibility will certainly increase together with, this is our hope, the willingness to contribute and to use the journal to disseminate ideas, events and actions.
This issue also contains the last part of the history of EFMC, by Henk Timmerman, which deals with the long road to an EFMC journal that ideally reached an endpoint with the launch of MedChemComm.
Professor Manfred Jung presents his research group in Friburg,Germany, and, as usual there are a lot of events and news that itwill be useful to check out. In particular, as an even year, 2010 is the ISMC’s year, which will be held in Brussels, for its XXI edition. Please check out the web site for infos and scientific program.
Also the EFMC web site (www.efmc.info) is renewing itself, as two novel functionalities will be operative soon, namely a Job Portal and a Meeting Calendar.
Enjoy the reading,
Editor of MedChemWatch