Express Pharma

Open innovation in drug development

Juilee Dandekar, Sector Expert - Healthcare, Business Research & Advisory, Aranca shares insights on how greater transparency in drug development could deliver quicker, more affordable solutions

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Traditional drug development is a costly, tedious process for pharma companies the world over. There is immense investment of time, effort, and money involved in developing a new drug. The time taken to move a new formulation from discovery to commercialisation is 10–12 years. So, while the government prioritises affordable healthcare, the pharma industry is battling pricing pressure from patients, healthcare providers, as well as regulators.

The complexities involved in commercialising any new drug has led pharma companies to adopt a more open, collaborative approach for their research and development (R&D) processes. The need for multiple competencies, skills and technologies, and multi-disciplinary tasks has prompted this move. To this end, companies have established collaborations and joint ventures with academic institutions, built innovation centres within the organisation, and experimented with crowdsourcing and virtual R&D. In times of dire need, such as in the current pandemic, competitors also collaborate and/or partner with each other. Companies, at this time, are focusing more on strengthening external knowledge, acquiring the right drug candidates, licensing, and moving R&D models from inside-driven concepts and ideas to a more open, innovation-led paradigm.

There are several advantages to introducing open innovation for the drug creation process, some of which are explored here:

  • Through strategic partnerships, a company can access the expertise of talented individuals from within India and those based abroad. This can help expand the knowledge base and create a conducive environment for innovations
  • Project delivery is ramped up as shared knowledge helps speed up the research process
  • The company can maximise returns on its R&D investment

This model would also benefit end consumers and caregivers. Open-innovation collaborations such as crowdsourcing, PPP, and corporate partnerships would help pharmaceuticals reduce their overheads. Pharma products then pass on this benefit to end customers, thus bringing to market inexpensive medicines. Hence, medical care becomes more affordable for a larger section of society. 

Faster drug development would also mean more options and better treatments available for customers. Open innovations and collaborations have managed to improve efficacy and develop drugs that target diseases precisely, with minimal side effects. This has led to an exact understanding of various diseases and their causes.

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