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Pharmaceutical Reality

by Nick Jacobs

As the CEO of a Research Institute specializing in, among many things, genomics and proteomics, it has become very clear to me that the pharmaceutical industry, like healthcare in general is, in many ways, systemically stuck in the past.  The goal of big pharma still appears to be the magic pill and that pill is one that can be made available to the masses, the mega drug, the blockbuster.

As we determine the specific nuances generated by individual genetic profiles and phenotypes, it is also obvious that precise, individualized medicines could be developed and marketed to function like  laser targeted weapons to surgically strike the offending genes or proteins. Unfortunately, that goal does not seem to currently be appearing on the majority of the radar screens of our pharmaceutical companies.

Although this new world order has been a dream of ours, Big Pharma is not heading in that direction.  In fact, recent attempts to create more vaccines represent an interesting new twist on an old melody.  They still, like the flu vaccine, are aimed at the masses.

What will it take to change a comprehensive program that continues to work around the individual in favor of a product that could be added to the water supply?  Truly, it is my belief that this transition may not occur within my lifetime, but it is certainly an obsession around which dreams are built.

Our biomedical informatics scientists are creating algorithms that will, in short order, allow us to sort through the specific human subtleties to allow differentiation at an individual level.  Will the economic potential of these discoveries ever convert to a viable financial alternative for pharma? One can only hope.