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Biomedical R&D in the 21st Century

April 23, 2013
Reflecting back upon my career,  I recognize the importance academic-industry research partnerships played in shaping my philosophy as a scientist and research leader.  Something deeply fulfilling happens when basic and applied scientists ally, and our individual passion to make a difference in the life of a patient merges into a community effort.

We are moving ever closer to solving some of the toughest biomedical challenges of our time.  But this is also an era of vast information, deep scientific specialization, and a globally distributed innovation ecosystem.  The business of scientific research is rapidly evolving from an individual contributor model to one of teamwork and partnership.  While it is true that until recently, the notion of scientists across academia, industry and government working together was largely unheard of, many of today’s biomedical challenges are far too great to “go it alone.”

I am convinced that public private partnerships and consortia hold great promise for the future of biomedical research for 3 fundamental reasons:

  • First, these partnerships bring great minds together to solve the biomedical challenges of our time,

  • Second, these partnerships can accelerate breakthroughs for patients, who are waiting, and

  • Third, partnerships can increase the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of bringing new medicines to patients.

Bringing together scientists with deep expertise and diverse backgrounds into a synergistic team is an important key to unlocking the innovation needed for medical breakthroughs.  A diversity of perspective and experience can also bring the insight needed to accelerate these breakthroughs.  New medicines take 12 or more years to develop from concept to regulatory approval and there is a high risk of failure late in the process, compounding the cost burden of drug development.  Partnerships advancing translational science like those enabled by the  National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences are especially important.  Indeed, better predictors of clinical efficacy can potentially reduce Phase-2 and Phase-3 failures, shaving years off the process and speeding new medicines to patients.

The efficiency and cost-effectiveness of bringing new medicines to patients can also be enhanced through broad partnerships across industry, academia, and regulatory agencies (such as the Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency) that have been designed to proactively improve the clinical development process and ease both the production and review burden of increasingly large clinical data packages.

Biomedical R&D in the 21st century is rapidly evolving; indeed it must evolve to assure the sustainability of an industry critically important to patients around the world.  Public private partnerships and consortia are vital to this transformation as they bring great minds together to accelerate breakthrough discoveries and improve the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of delivering medicines to patients, who we know are desperately waiting.

Dale M. Edgar, Ph.D. is a Lilly Distinguished Research Fellow and Global Head of Science and Technology Partnerships with Lilly Research Laboratories at Eli Lilly and Company .