Research, fail, keep on researching
Bringing a single drug to market involves studying 10,000 different compounds. Of these, only about 10 are clinically analysed in greater detail until one of them can be processed into an effective drug.
But how do research companies know which direction to take in the first place? By narrowing down the possible fields of research with a host of questions: Which are the diseases creating a need for new medicines? Are there any existing drugs with side effects that should be reduced? Do we now know more about a particular disease that would justify further research?
Once a specific field of research has been defined, scientists from a range of disciplines such as chemistry, biology, medicine and pharmacy come on board and help with small individual steps to ensure that a drug can make steady progress along the chain of research. Until approval is hopefully achieved.
The reason for such a lengthy process is that researchers do all they can to minimise side effects and ensure the product’s efficacy. Only when a substance has passed all the required preclinical testing can it also be tested on humans.
On average, scientists spend 12 years meticulously researching a single drug with patience and perseverance. They perform experiment after experiment, only to start all over again just before reaching the finish line. Between 1998 and 2017, for example, there were 150 unsuccessful attempts to develop an Alzheimer’s drug – and ultimately just four drugs received approval in this therapeutic area.
In their work, therefore, researchers must develop a tolerance of failure. And keep on going until their work finally becomes part of that world-changing 2%. Giving up is not an option: we keep researching.