During the ill-fated 1970 Apollo 13 mission to the moon, it was astronaut Jack Swigert who alerted ground control that something had gone terribly wrong when he uttered the phrase, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” Those same words seem very fitting to the current state of affairs around the skyrocketing costs of drug discovery. Recent estimates place the expense of successfully bringing just one drug to market at between $350 million and $1.2 billion. However, in the last decade, companies having brought 4 to 13 drugs to market have watched the price tag reach stratospheric heights — orbiting $5 billion+. “I think the pain point has reached a threshold that’s no longer bearable,” states Dalvir Gill, Ph.D., CEO of TransCelerate BioPharma.
A nonprofit organization founded in September 2012 by 10 member companies, TransCelerate set out on a bold mission — to collaborate across the global pharmaceutical and biotech R&D community to identify, prioritize, design, and implement solutions to simplify and accelerate the delivery of innovative new therapies. This is easier said than done in an industry with a history of companies working in secret, racing to be first to market. Now totaling 18 (see Table 1) participants, TransCelerate members include private, public, and VC-backed companies, ranging in age from a little over one year to nearly 300, and hailing from Japan, the EU, and the United States. With combined annual revenues in excess of $300 billion and nearly 800,000 employees worldwide, the prospect of TransCelerate being successful must be similar to imagining the United States and the former Soviet Union actually collaborating to put a man on the moon during the height of the Cold War. And yet, having only been in existence a little over a year, TransCelerate is transforming the drug development terrain faster than many thought possible. Dr. Gill, a 25-year drug development veteran, reveals the biggest roadblock to TransCelerate’s success and how it was overcome. In addition, he explains the important role organizational structure plays in driving results, as well as the science behind the initiative selection process.