Could An Open-Access Database Speed Up Drug Development?

Summer Allen | AAAS Member Central | October 6, 2014

A recent study finds a significant logjam in the development of new drugs at the discovery and early preclinical phases. Could the creation of an open-source translational research database help solve the problem?

The traditional view of how new drugs are developed goes as follows: A university lab invents or discovers a biopharmaceutical with therapeutic potential. The academic inventors then patent their discovery and license it to a small biotech company that performs preclinical studies. The small biotech company then sublicenses the drug to a larger company that can afford to take the drug through clinical trials. What this study shows, however, is that the path from bench to bedside is rarely so linear.

The study—conducted by professors Matthew Higgins, Jerry Thursby, and Marie Thursby at Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business—tracked how drug patents are transferred between biotech companies at the preclinical stage and how long it takes for the drugs themselves to reach the clinical-trial stage.  The researchers created a database of 835 biopharmaceutical patents. Each originated from university research and had been licensed to a biotech firm...