Feb 2007: Funding Research




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Video title: Feb 2007: Funding Research
Released on: February 01, 2007. © PharmaVentures Ltd
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In This Episode:
    The means by which medicines are discovered are just as important to understand as the particular discovery process for any one drug.
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The means by which medicines are discovered are just as important to understand as the particular discovery process for any one drug. It is argued here that future breakthroughs in medicine will only occur if governments back basic pure research, and that governments should both provide direct funding and encourage other bodies to fund this research. Furthermore, when it comes to funding the riskier drug discovery and development, an environment is needed in which those who take the risk receive the reward – through tax breaks for those, such as venture capitalists, who are prepared to take the risk, and through a sympathetic drug pricing regime that fairly rewards those that succeed in passing the necessary regulatory standards for a safe but effective medicine.

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The discovery of medicines that overcome the devastation of disease is one of man’s greatest quests. The means by which we discover these medicines is just as important to understand as the particular discovery process for any one drug. Every year billions of dollars are invested in discovering and developing drugs. The discovery process itself usually comes from our understanding of life’s molecular processes, although there are, as well, plenty of medicines that are discovered without any understanding of their mechanism of action. Our understanding of the fundamental processes and mechanisms in our bodies that form the basis of our health and illness should have no boundaries – and pure academic research is necessary for this understanding to grow. As a society how do we successfully fund this fundamental research? For many, there is an expectation that governments will fund the basic research while companies should invest their money in the riskier drug discovery research and development. However, one of the problems we face in the pharmaceutical sector is that sometimes government funding bodies want fundamental research to be more focused on direct pharmaceutical applications, so that society can directly benefit from the research. Although we can empathise with this way of thinking, we are in danger of diverting important funds away from pure research. This is the battleground of academic or university research funding. "Future breakthroughs in medicine will only occur if governments back basic pure research. … I argue that governments should both provide direct funding and encourage other bodies to fund this research … and when it comes to funding the riskier drug discovery and development, then we need an environment where those who take the risk receive the reward …" Future breakthroughs in medicine will only occur if governments back basic pure research. This is essential for several reasons. Academic environments should be places where research should have no bounds. This is really important if we want to continue our quest for understanding life and the universe. Furthermore, it is also important if academia wants to attract the brightest of undergraduates. Thus, I would argue that governments should both provide direct funding and encourage other bodies to fund basic and fundamental research. When it comes to funding the riskier drug discovery and development, then we need an environment where those who take the risk receive the reward. This means that the funding of early-stage research in companies should be incentivised through tax breaks for those prepared to take the risk, such as venture capitalists, and through a sympathetic drug pricing regime that fairly rewards those that succeed in passing the necessary regulatory standards for a safe but effective medicine. In the end, the rewards for society will be immense, and there will be a significant positive economic impact on society. -Fintan Walton, Chief Executive Officer, PharmaVentures Ltd.
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