MipTec, 2009 convened October 13-15 in Basel, Switzerland. Apart from the Swiss national soccer team securing a berth to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, a highlight during the conference was certainly the talk given by Martin Mackay, President of Pfizer Global R&D: “R&D – As if our lives depended on it.” One of the key messages of his seminar was “choosing the right target for the right patient.” The right target is chosen by rigorous target validation. The explosion of genomics and microarray technologies in the ‘90’s ensured that there were copious amounts of putative drug targets associated with disease, but these were rarely properly validated. Some point to lack of validation as the causative agent for the decline in new chemical entities in this decade. Martin Mackay’s organization is collaborating extensively with academia to “choose the right targets” for their drug programs.
My mind goes back to an award lecture given by Leroy Hood at the 9th Annual SBS conference in Portland, Oregon titled “Systems Biology: Decifering Life.” This was 2003 and Hood had recently co-founded the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB). One of the most provocative statements he made in his lecture was that Pharma would never adopt systems biology approaches as they were too complex and would require too much of an investment before any financial returns were realized. This is why he set up ISB. Systems biology approaches and other rigorous methods for understanding diseases is largely the realm of academia or other publicly-funded organizations, where return on investment is typically gauged by the number of publications and their impact factors. Science typically wins out in the competition for funding.
I think Martin Mackay’s collaborations bode well for Pfizer’s future product pipeline.
By, BioTek Instruements