Precompetitive Collaborations Are the New Pharma Industry Reality

Faced with a growing set of industry-wide challenges—low clinical testing success rates, rapidly increasing research and development costs, and reduced product life cycles—pharmaceutical companies around the globe are increasingly turning away from a competitive working model and embracing a new collaborative one.

These new types of research-and-development relationships between companies and other institutions that would normally work in isolation from and compete with each other are known in the industry as “precompetitive research collaborations.” Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, has defined precompetitive research as a type of research dedicated to improving tools and techniques instead of developing specific products. In other words, the focus of this model is on working together to improve the environment in which new drug discoveries can be made—by increasing efficiency, sustainability, and the potential for innovation thanks to pooled resources—rather than on the discoveries themselves. It certainly seems to be the most effective way forward for many pharmaceutical companies, whose former working model of in-house research is becoming increasingly less viable.

Increasingly, the pharmaceutical industry is not the only one creating these partnerships. Academic research centers and government organizations are also forming new and productive relationships with pharmaceutical companies and with each other. One recent such collaboration is the new Center for Therapeutic Target Validation, formed through a partnership between GlaxoSmithKline, the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, and the European Bioinformatics Institute. The three organizations will pool their resources towards the discovery of new potential drug targets, which would then be accessible to all three partners. Similar precompetitive partnership examples include the Target Discovery Institute at Oxford University, the Innovative Medicines Initiative based in Europe, and the Critical Path Institute in the US. All of these partnerships are dedicated to original translational research toward the eventual goal of commercializing new medicines.

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