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Uniting Stakeholders To Streamline Drug Discovery

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We recently spoke with Tyler Golato, Lead Scientist at Molecule, to learn more about the "innovation crisis", the factors directly impacting the types of therapeutics being brought to market, and how by uniting pharmaceutical stakeholders it is possible to streamline the drug development pipeline.

Laura Lansdowne (LL): What are some of the key challenges encountered by those working within the pharmaceutical industry?

Tyler Golato (TG): The pharmaceutical industry is facing a wide variety of challenges, but perhaps the most pressing is the ongoing innovation crisis. Drug discovery rates are slowing, the price of bringing a drug to market is increasing and return on investment (ROI) on R&D is expected to hit 0% by 2020. Taken together, these factors are having a direct impact on the types of therapeutics being brought to market. Because the capital requirements are so high, drug development represents a huge risk to pharmaceutical companies and universities. As the situation worsens, smaller stakeholders are being squeezed out of the market, and it is primarily large-cap pharmaceutical companies that are able to successfully develop drugs. Further, there is an increasing focus on producing “blockbuster drugs” – therapeutics that generate more than $1b USD/year in revenue. This trend is hurting patients, particularly those that suffer from a rare disease or diseases that are not profitable to treat. Currently, there are virtually no sustainable business models for developing therapeutics for these sorts of conditions. Most of the research is funded by philanthropists. If we are going to make strides towards alleviating suffering and improving human health broadly, this trend must change.

LL: What can be done to help overcome these challenges?

TG: Ultimately, we need new, sustainable business models for drug development, particularly those that support the development of therapeutics for rare disease, pediatric illness, and other conditions that are chronically underfunded or difficult to profit from. Further, we need to strengthen ties between academia and industry. Only 12% of preclinical assets reside in pharmaceutical companies. Thus, the bulk of early drug discovery is happening in universities and academic spaces. However, pharmaceutical companies are the organizations that are commercializing these therapeutics and benefitting. There must be a large, coordinated attempt to rethink the current innovation engine in the pharmaceutical space.

LL: What is “Molecule” and why is it being developed?

TG: Molecule is an open source, blockchain-based software protocol that provides a market-based platform for price discovery, funding and curation of chemical intellectual property (IP)/therapeutics. It is being developed in direct response to the problems mentioned above, such as the innovation crisis in pharma and the lack of sustainable business models for therapeutics for rare disease, for example. The goals of Molecule are multi-faceted, but all are targeted at improving and accelerating the drug development pipeline via a market-based ecosystem. This protocol attempts to curate promising chemical IP, drug delivery systems, and therapeutic pathways via a market and trading platform that incentivizes stakeholder cross-collaboration with a novel funding model. This offers a new opportunity for individuals, organizations, universities, and companies to distribute the cost, risk, and ownership of pharmaceutical intellectual property and its development. At its core, Molecule is an entirely novel way of funding the development of therapeutics, particularly in their earlier stages of development.

LL: Who can benefit from using Molecule?

TG: One of the core design goals of Molecule is to unite all stakeholders in drug development – industry professionals, researchers, pharmaceutical companies, universities, investors, and patients – in a holistic ecosystem conducive to streamlined drug discovery and effective collaboration. We see our early users primarily as universities and small- to medium-cap pharmaceutical companies and biotechs – those stakeholders that are struggling to compete in the drug development landscape. 

Tyler Golato was speaking to Laura Elizabeth Lansdowne, Science Writer for Technology Networks.