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Op-Ed in Forbes on the Threat to Philanthropy

January 15, 2015
This week, Howard Husock extols the benefits of venture philanthropy through this Forbes op-ed.

In the op-ed, Husock points out that private entities conduct a significant portion of applied research toward new drug development as referenced in this 2008 Manhattan Institute paper, “The Truth About Drug Innovation”, co-authored by two researchers from the Tufts University Center for the Study of Drug Development, and Institute Fellow Benjamin Zycher:

“. . .among. . . thirty-five drugs and drug classes, private-sector research was responsible for central advances in basic science for seven, in applied science for thirty-four, and in the development of drugs yielding improved clinical performance or manufacturing processes for twenty-eight. In short, all or almost all of the drugs and drug classes examined in this study would not have been developed—or their development would have been delayed significantly—in the absence of the scientific or technical contributions of the pharmaceutical firms.”

Husock goes on to emphasize that while the government has historically funded basic research to lay the groundwork for drug development, it does not have the funds or the capacity to develop and market new drugs.

In a recent New York Times op-ed, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation was criticized for its role in the drug development process. Yet, as Husock points out, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins himself has lauded CF Foundation’s work with a drug developer as ‘a dramatic example of risk-taking that has paid off in a remarkable way.’

Husock credits the CF Foundation as playing a key role in the development of a breakthrough drug to treat CF disease, which he says ‘notably slows the decline in lung function among those suffering from that disease.’ Furthermore, he points out that ‘the drug is considered the first treatment which addresses the underlying genetic causes of the condition, which affects at least 70,000 people worldwide, including 30,000 people in the U.S.’

Robert J. Beall, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, is quoted in the op-ed, describing their deal with the drug company as ‘transformational... for people with cystic fibrosis and their families.’

The full op-ed can be accessed here.