Can Big Pharma Produce the Next Generation of Medicines? - Pharmaceutical Technology

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Can Big Pharma Produce the Next Generation of Medicines?
Patent pressures, changing disease profiles, and higher costs force companies to fight for the top.


Pharmaceutical Technology
Volume 32, Issue 8

Winning characteristics

So, where will tomorrow's new medicines come from? In my view, the future will belong to those who are fast. They will be flexible and innovative with less expensive capabilities for production, distribution, and marketing. They will be able to spot winners early, have a balanced pipeline containing both small and large molecules, use translational medicine to directly apply research to patient care, and know how to bring new medicines to market.

Winners in commercializing new medicines will be those who can leverage emerging markets. They will have a global reach while understanding the nuances of local markets. They will understand and partner with regulators and collaborate with payers.

Winners will engage in personalized healthcare, aiming to create superior patient outcomes by using the right treatment for the right patient with the right dose, and be right the first time.

Winners will seek out innovation. They will fold into their pipeline of candidate drugs discovered in-house those drugs licensed from academia, small pharma, and biotech. They will pursue alliances, partnerships, and collaborations of all flavors.

This is the model AstraZeneca (London) is working toward. We are focusing on improving the quality of our candidate drugs, speeding development-cycle times, and becoming a more cost-effective organization—all with the goal of delivering better medicines to patients.

We have made considerable progress in recent years, building a robust and expanding pipeline. Our acquisition of MedImmune (Gaithersburg, MD) in 2007 added capabilities in biologicals and vaccines. We are well-positioned globally, with R&D facilities in North America, Europe, and Asia, marketing access to more than 100 geographic markets, and an efficient production and distribution capability. We have a strong and growing R&D presence in China and India, and significant clinical capability in emerging markets in Eastern Europe. We are leveraging this presence and our reputation to access scientists, healthcare providers, health and research institutions, and patients around the world.

We are delving into personalized healthcare initiatives, with several projects up and running, and we continue to invest in and develop our diagnostic capability. We have been a strong player in the in-licensing arena for the past several years, and we have hundreds of partnerships underway. Basically, we are casting a wide net to find innovation and opportunity wherever it may be.

So the answer to whether Big Pharma will be the ones delivering the next generation of medicines is: Yes. But only if those companies can leverage the qualities that made them successful in the past, while adapting to change and adopting today's winning characteristics.

John Patterson, PhD, is executive director of Development at AstraZeneca, Mereside, Alderley Park, Macclesfield SK10 4TG, Cheshire, UK, email via


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