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New directions for drug discovery?

The dearth of new drugs coming to market is forcing some drug companies -- and their investors -- to rethink R&D. For instance, at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research (NIBR), the focus has shifted from trying to develop the next blockbuster to reexamining well understood disease pathways to identify drug targets. In a presentation to investors last month, Mark Fishman, president of NIBR, reported that the company has boosted its portfolio of new molecular entities by 40%, and its r

Andrea Gawrylewski
The dearth of new drugs coming to market is forcing some drug companies -- and their investors -- to rethink R&D. For instance, at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research (NIBR), the focus has shifted from trying to develop the next blockbuster to reexamining well understood disease pathways to identify drug targets. In a presentation to investors last month, Mark Fishman, president of NIBR, reported that the company has boosted its portfolio of new molecular entities by 40%, and its rate of transition from proof-of-concept stage to clinical trial phase by 60%. So what's behind all the improvement? "In the past, the areas of focus would be chosen by presumptive market value" of a new drug, Fishman told The Scientist. "We decided that the more fruitful way to go would be to focus on the science." In particular, Fishman's team has redirected its efforts on diseases whose molecular pathways...




Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly described Merck's RNAi tactics affecting a patient's "drug" stream. This has been corrected and regrets the error.

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