Just when we were all pumped about the news coming out of ASCO this week, leave it to the Life Sci VC blog to throw us a curve by pointing out how concentrated the pharma industry's efforts are with regard to cancer targets being investigated. And, Bruce's argument is supported by facts and data. I hate that. I try to never let the facts get in the way of a good story.
The blog post notes that of the 990 cancer programs, greater than 20% are aimed at 8 targets, each of which has more than 24 programs in clinical development. VEGF itself has 70! The data is presented in a bar chart in the post. By Bruce's estimates, $5 B+ has been spent in the past few years on these programs. He points out that they ALL can't be winners. This appears to be an egregious waste of resources at the expense of more novel but unproven targets.
This illustrates one of the problems we've been seeing with the lack of productivity of Big Pharma R&D as embodied by failed programs and low ROIs. There's a lot of me-too thinking that undoubtedly arises out of a desire to reduce risk and increase success -- but the calvary charge of projects concentrated on a few targets virtually guarantees a lot of commercial failures. Only so many people can fit in the pool before it overflows.
It is an interesting post and I think you should read it for yourself. He concludes the pieces by saying,
"We need to stop being target lemmings, or our group-think and risk avoidance will run our industry off a cliff." Now that's something to ponder (and correct if you agree) before it's too late.
Posted by Bruce Lehr June 7th 2012.