Can big pharma succeed in genomic-based drug discovery?

Thursday, June 11th, 2009 by hinrich

I have been asking myself this question. While I am trying to contribute to the success of drug discovery within a big pharma company, I truly wonder. We are faced with more and more processes that originate from people who focus on production environments and standards. It gets increasingly more difficult to explain and educate higher management about the essential differences between research and development or production: For example, it can be alright to have standard rules for administering computers (e.g. removal of administrator rights, use of approved software, etc., to cut costs), but part of research is that a scientist needs to be able to try new programs or algorithms to assess whether they improve the quality of his or her experimental results. Big pharma companies that are serious about internal research need to make sure that they create and maintain a different working environment for scientists in research in contrast to colleagues who work in much more standardized (and understandably more controlled) environments such as production. This is especially true for areas of research that involve the generation of lots of data such as imaging, sequencing, molecular profiling, etc.

Furthermore, it will be the pharma companies who will create some level of academic freedom within their research organizations who will succeed. Freedom for creativity / creative thoughts and experiments are the true basis of innovation. Innovation can only take place where it is possible to be creative and try out creative ideas. Scientists in pharma should watch out that their brains are not increasingly focused on rational thinking (writing reports, answering emails, attending meetings, etc.) while cutting shorter and shorter the time and freedom they have for creative thinking.

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