Q: What trend will have the biggest impact on pharma/bio?
In my opinion, the use of combination therapies to treat diseases other than cancer will have the biggest impact. The types of diseases where companies could seize opportunity include Hepatitis C caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis (MS). One of the companies well-practiced and best-positioned seems to be Gilead. Alternatively, companies working on harnessing the immune system to combat cancer could be an interesting growth opportunity. Big pharma seems to be leading the way. For example, a Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) study with the two-drug combination (Yervoy and nivolumab) resulted in nearly one-third of 52 skin cancer patients having rapid and deep tumor regressions. Roche’s Genentech, Merck, and BMS dominated this year’s American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting, though Onyx and BioMarin bear watching.
G. Steven Burrill founded Burrill & Company as a logical extension of his 40-year involvement in the growth and prosperity of the biotechnology industry. He has been an active advisor and catalyst in some of the industry’s most notable companies and transactions.
Q: What advice do you have for the FDA to facilitate more cost-effective drug development?
We need an FDA that is equipped to handle both the pace of discovery and the pace of diagnosis. We need to create a 21st century FDA that can speed breakthrough cures and medicines to the patients who so desperately need them, while retaining its position as the global “Gold Standard” for the review and approval of safe and effective medicines. Furthermore, the reimbursement conversation must be focused on the value of providing cures and treatments. There are 10,000 baby boomers entering Medicare every day for the next 20 years. If fewer of them were sick from various diseases, Medicare costs would be driven down astronomically. We need to look at what we spend on chronic conditions. If we could delay the onset of diabetes by even five years, we would save Medicare $50 billion a year.
Alan Eisenberg serves as executive VP for emerging companies and business development at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). He manages and directs BIO’s services and advocacy efforts for BIO’s emerging companies.
Q: Which pharma/bio companies do you think are truly being disruptively innovative?
Many pharma and bio companies are attempting individual approaches that are extremely innovative. I am particularly drawn to those companies investing in internal resources focused on bringing innovation to their clinical research. Such dedication is important as companies otherwise try to draw on existing resources already committed to their “day jobs,” making innovation more of a hobby. Dedication is needed in order to bring discipline to innovation and to ensure companies are picking well-developed ideas, running intelligent experiments, and managing the necessary change in order to embed appropriate new tools and approaches in the organization. I appreciate companies willing to be transparent, enabling the entire clinical research field to move forward. Some of the companies participating at the Disruptive Innovation in Clinical Trials program (i.e. Lilly, J&J, and Pfizer) are taking strong positions by these measures.
Craig Lipset is head of clinical innovation within worldwide R&D at Pfizer. In this role, he works across units and stakeholders to define Pfizer’s vision for the future of clinical trials and enables the initiatives and investments to create that future.