While many articles are examining the industry pipeline and while investors are pleased with what they see, this has not diminished the discussion about poor innovation in the industry and the lack of productivity in R&D. It is an oft-discussed topic and one that is understandable. Part of the problem is that making important strides forward is difficult with classic scientific methods where one must isolate one variable at a time in a complex, multi-faceted, physiological environment. On top of that, we are now learning that molecular targets and gene expression provide significant enough variations person by person.
Now when I see articles about the drug pipeline, it makes me think about ‘beyond the pill’, which I think has relevance here. All the ‘beyond the pill’ programs are very admirable and offer both patients and physicians a valuable service; yet, at face value, have very little to do with pipeline. However, I think as Pharma struggle with the current lack of innovation in pipeline alongside the pay-per-pill model, which is clearly starting to fail, we need to examine what ‘beyond the pill’ really means for pipeline. In my mind, we should really be thinking ‘beyond the pill in our pipeline’. What I mean is, are we not heading for a future world in which the pill itself, as we know it today, is becoming increasingly irrelevant?
Consider for a moment one of my favourite areas of research – Nanobots. I discussed in an article some time ago how the dog’s olfactory system has been replicated already, allowing us to utilize these chips for bomb sniffing, identifying where cadavers are, and many of the olfactory based jobs previously provided by our canine friends. I have also discussed how work is progressing in which the human digestive system is now being replicated. The use of Nanobots in medicine is tremendous and fascinating. Nanobots will have the ability to repair damaged or diseased tissue at the molecular level. Obviously, the circulatory system will be the natural highway for medical Nanobots and they can be sent in the blood to areas where they are needed. For example, in Oncology, they may be able to attach themselves to the specific cancer cells and not only report the position and structure of these, but a Nanobot laden with interfering RNA could deactivate the protein production of the cancer cells and kill them by attaching themselves to the cells and delivering the genetic material to do this. They are expected to be easily able to remove plaque from arterial walls, and perhaps even find areas of arterial weakness. They can detect chemicals that give early warning for organ failure, and numerous other applications.
So, while not drugs or pills, they are an amazingly interesting area that is becoming increasingly more important. While there are numerous venture capital funded, smaller Pharma companies focusing on these, I have not seen a single Big Pharma doing research in this space. Maybe they are not publicising it, but hopefully they are not ignoring it completely. Big Pharma should seriously be looking at it as this appears to be where the future is headed, going far beyond the pill of today. I think this is definitely food for thought.
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