The Promise of Open Innovation in Drug Discovery

The promise of open innovation in drug discovery: an industry perspective published in Future Medicinal Chemistry, Vol. 7, No. 14, Pages 1835-1838

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Bridging the knowledge gap between academia and industry...........

The last decade has seen a huge increase in the number of academic drug discovery centers with the expertise to discover lead molecules, often termed chemical probes, with the pharmacological properties to test a biological hypothesis in disease models This has required the creation of academic compound libraries and High Throughput Screening (HTS) centers, alongside growth in expertise in techniques including assay development and computational and medicinal chemistry. The common objective of these groups is to source novel target hypotheses from academia, to generate lead molecules, and to use these molecules to validate the target in cellular and animal models of disease, with the ultimate objective of validating new targets and creating a drug discovery program. In parallel across pharma there has been a move away from a volume based portfolio model, towards a model of a portfolio containing a smaller number of drug discovery projects with greater levels of target validation. Recognising that expertise in disease biology and target validation largely sits in academia, while knowledge of lead discovery and clinical development largely sits in pharma has required the development of new models of collaboration. In recognition of this new way of working the pharma industry is on a journey from an era of closed innovation, when discovery was largely performed internally, with little sharing of knowledge and research assets, towards an era of open innovation where pharma exists as part of a broader symbiotic community. The academic community is under increasing pressure from funding bodies to demonstrate translation of academic discovery into new medicines. Taken together this creates the opportunity for open innovation to become commonplace. Establishing such collaborations requires an increase in trust and an understanding of the value of target and compound related intellectual property, accompanied by an appreciation that success can only be achieved through the sharing of knowledge and expertise. This manuscript proposes that the successful pharma companies will be those that transition to a model in which they exist as part of a broad network with many collaborative partners, with a free exchange of information and expertise based on trust and shared objectives, to identify and validate novel drug targets and deliver the next generation of medicines, with all parties sharing in the commercial success resulting from these efforts.

While there have been notable examples of the delivery of candidate drugs in rare and orphan diseases relatively few academic drug discovery projects have progressed into the clinic. Reasons for this include the low levels of target validation associated with academic drug targets, the quality of the compound collections and hence lead molecules identified and the lack of expertise, and funding, within academia to deliver drug candidates and support clinical studies. These gaps in capability can be addressed through collaboration with pharma, while the gap in disease biology in pharma can be addressed through collaboration with academia.To bring the strengths of both communities together requires the establishment of new relationships where both parties contribute complementary expertise and share in the resulting success of collaborative projects. This new collaborative model has been termed Open Innovation.The full article is here.

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Stephen Rees

VP Screening Sciences and Sample Management, AstraZeneca

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