Cell Article Analyzes How Much Time & Effort Are Involved in Development of Important Therapeutic Drugs—7,000 Scientists, 5,700 Institutions, 100 years in One Typical Example; Analysis of “Elite Performers” May Accelerate Progress

Scientists from the Gladstone Institutes in San Francisco have provided a detailed map of how basic research translates into new treatments for deadly diseases. Charting the network of discoveries that led to the development of important therapeutic drugs, the investigators reveal that, up to now, the path to a cure has required thousands of scientists and many decades. Writing in the September 24, 2015 issue of the journal Cell, the authors propose that a clearer understanding of how past successes have come about can show ways to accelerate the process of finding future cures. Their article is titled “From Scientific Discovery to Cures: Bright Stars within a Galaxy.” "We started with a big question: how do scientific discoveries lay the foundation for successful development of new drugs?" says senior author Alexander Pico, Ph.D., a staff research scientist at the Gladstone Institutes. "We all have an intuitive understanding that basic research provides the starting point for new drug development, but in this paper we wanted to quantify and illuminate features of that path. Our data show that it takes contributions from a surprisingly large and complex network of individual scientists working in many locales to reach a cure." Using newly developed, unbiased data modeling methods, the investigators retrospectively mapped the discovery path to two drugs that have recently been approved by the FDA and could be characterized as "cures"--ipilimumab for certain forms of cancer and ivacaftor for cystic fibrosis. The researchers relied on citations from published research findings, using "bibliometrics" to work backwards to uncover the stepwise scientific advances that led to the new medications.
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