In Conversation event: Why is drug R&D so much less efficient now than it was in 1950?

16 March 2023

On the 2nd of February, Dr Farah Huzair, Lecturer in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies, at The University of Edinburgh's School of Social and Political Sciences, and Dr Jack Scannell, CEO of Etheros Pharmaceuticals and Innogen Associate, discussed the reasons underlying the marked decline in drug R&D output efficiency since 1950 and ways to improve it.

A striking contrast runs through the last 70 years of biopharmaceutical discovery, research and development. Huge scientific and technological gains should have increased the quality of academic science and raised industrial R&D efficiency. However, inflation-adjusted industrial R&D costs per novel drug increased nearly 100-fold between 1950 and 2010; and drugs are more likely to fail in clinical development today than in the 1970s.

Dr Scannell highlighted the need to develop and use better predictive models to identify drugs that work and described his work quantifying the impact of model quality on biopharma R&D productivity.

This event took place in person at The University of Edinburgh and attendees were able to ask further questions at the end about how to support the development of better models and methods to validate them.

Background reading:

Scannell, J.W., Bosley, J., Hickman, J.A. et al. Predictive validity in drug discovery: what it is, why it matters and how to improve it. Nat Rev Drug Discov 21, 915–931 (2022).

You can listen to a recording of the discussion here: