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September 15, 2011
Targets to Avoid (Or That We Wish We Had)
A discussion with colleagues recently got me to wondering about this useful (albeit grim) question: what area of drug discovery over the last twenty years would you say has taken up the most resources and returned the least value? I'm thinking more of disease/therapeutic areas, but other nominations are welcome, of course.
My own candidate is the nuclear receptor field, where some of that time and effort was mine. When I think of how enthusiastic I was ten years ago, how impatient I was to get in there and start up a big effort to really understand what was going on, to dig into the details and come up with drug candidates - and then when I think of what happened to the people who actually did that, well, it's food for thought. For those outside the field, a vast amount of effort and treasure was spent trying to work out a lot of insanely complex biology, and well, not much has ever emerged. Things went toward the clinic and never got there. Things went into the clinic and never came back out. Some went all the way to the FDA and were turned down.
So that's my nominee. I ask this question not just to wallow in misery and schadenfreude, but to see if there are some trends that we can spot, so as to avoid such things the next time they come down the chute. Given the state of the industry, the last thing we need is another gigantic sinkhole of time and money, so a bit of early warning would be welcome.
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