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Ted Grasela

Ted Grasela is the president and CEO of Cognigen Corporation and adjunct professor of pharmaceutics at the University at Buffalo.

Innovation is the introduction of new or improved products or services in the marketplace. The word speaks to the best of our creative spirit and suggests an optimism about the future when the shortcomings of the past are overcome. In many ways, the pharmaceutical industry is awash in innovation. Each year brings new tools and techniques that offer new potential for advancement in science and technology. It sometimes seems that if we just wait long enough, innovation will eventually solve our most intractable problems and bring important new medicines to the marketplace. A quick review of the current state of pharmaceutical research and development (R&D) certainly suggests we could use such a boost. The cost of drug development continues to escalate, reflecting both the rising costs of R&D efforts and the lost investments of failed late-stage development programs. All of this has led to rising costs of new medicines, a loss of jobs in the R&D sector, and a questioning of the value of investing in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry.

But why is it that the steady advances in science and technology we have come to expect have not resulted in increased productivity of the pharmaceutical R&D effort? We can increase the speed and efficiency of high-throughput screening, for example, but this has not led to a greater number of successful new therapies. We can use in silico techniques like modeling and simulation to estimate the probability of success in phase 3, but we have not seen a substantial improvement in the productivity of the pharmaceutical R&D effort. We just seem to arrive at failure more often and at greater expense.

The issues of innovation and how to foster it in pharmaceutical sciences and biotechnology R&D is explored in the current issue of the AAPS Newsmagazine. As you read the essay, ask yourself, “What does successful innovation in the pharmaceutical sciences look like to me?”

The AAPS Newsmagazine December cover article, developed by the Clinical Pharmacology and Translational Research section, is entitled Innovation Ecosystems in Pharma: Collaboration at the Boundaries Between Disciplines.