A new NEJM study casts doubt on the dogma that academic researchers contribute by discovering underlying mechanisms and pathways for diseases but don't contribute much to applying the research for creation of commercial drugs. According to the study, the public sector contributed heavily to the development of more than 20 percent of new drugs between 1990 and 2007.
Public sector was defined as universites, research hospitals, nonprofit research institutes, and federal labs. Using patent database informaton, the study authors determined that the public sector produced 21.2 percent of all new drugs receiving priority review -- a marker signaling the innovativeness of these products. Innovative drugs from the public sector were disproportionately overrepresented in the totals.
Wow! Put another way, 46.2 percent of NDAs from the public sector received priority reviews, as compared with 20 percent of applications from the private sector - a 2.3 fold difference in rate. The study authors also noted that the public sector concentrated more efforts on different disease areas than the private sector - particularly in the areas of hematology, oncology and infectious disease (not the heartbreak of psoriasis, restless leg syndrome or female sexual dysfunction).
The public sector helped finance the development of some of the world's biggest blockbusters including Remicade for rheumatoid arthritis and the pain drug Lyrica (see Fierce Biotech). Seventy-five public sector sites discovered or co-discovered at least one product, with the NIH taking first place with 22 products. Who'd thunk? Maybe Francis Collins Translational Insitute has legs afterall.
Posted by Bruce Lehr Feb 10th 2011.