Academic Non-Profit and Pharma Collaborations in Accelarating Drug Discovery (Track)


Assem S. el Baghdady

AlphaBeta Pharma, Leatherhead, Surrey, UK


Our world is facing many pressing healthcare issues. In developing countries, the basic health components of clean air and water present great technical challenges. Growing populations demand proper nutrition, public health programs, immunization, energy, reproductive healthcare, and more. Developed countries are seeing more of their healthcare resources spent on illnesses caused by an affluent Western lifestyle: metabolic syndrome, mental health issues, and the complications of ageing. The solutions to these complex issues cut across all borders, and involve many industries and scientific disciplines. Governments need both industry and knowledge institutions to work together to reach tomorrow’s technical healthcare solutions. 
Universities are at the forefront of knowledge. They discover pieces of a vast and complex puzzle, which are eventually made public through journals, congress presentations and working groups. However, too few of these research programs lead to commercially viable inspiration that can be exploited by entrepreneurs, eventually resulting in a marketable product.

Strategies for adding value and marketability should be planned into the research and development processes so as to bridge the gap between the laboratory and the market, to help ensure the successful commercialization of new technology-based products.

Due to diminishing public funding, academia also must attract corporate funding, and therefore must align its research with market needs.  However, market needs are not always aligned with unmet medical needs or patients’ needs. Nevertheless, corporate research generally starts from surveying the current market need (market pull) and takes into account future market, business, and financial projections before embarking on or funding new research. The return on investment for shareholders is the main driver in their decision-making: companies conduct research for investors’ sake.   

Academic institutions no longer have deep pockets, and alternative models are beginning to emerge.  There are many good reasons for this, an important one being simply the uncertainty and unpredictability of early-stage drug development research.  In addition, many different specialist skills are needed to achieve successful exploitation of research and innovations. Corporate research and development managers, academic researchers, technology transfer officers, intellectual property specialists, venture capitalists, professional marketers and policymakers alike have unique and vital contributions to the drug development process. 

This case, therefore, is very relevant because of the unprecedented scale of investment, the model to share risk and reward, and involvement of pharma, several universities, National Health Services, and a regional economic enterprise agency.