This is another boring post on drug discovery but ignore it at your peril.
Derek Lowe has another nice post up about the discovery of new antibiotics. Summary: it’s really hard. But I think even Derek might be glossing over something that seems pretty obvious. Discovering new antibiotics and getting over the rate limiting step of not finding anything new or effective for a long period of time is going to take a massive infusion of money. That money is going to have to come from somewhere. My recent conversation at a user group meeting resulted in shrugs from the participants. We have no idea who is going to pick up the tab for the research, which we already know ahead of time is going to be massively expensive and fruitless for a long time.
But here’s the thing, if you don’t take the time (and money) to do it right, when will you have the time (and money) to do it over? Do we need a new version of the plague to light a fire under the responsible parties to get this party started? On the other hand, it was the plague that got the Renaissance started when it wiped out a lot of the naysayers that stood in the way of the experimentalists…
Yes, I know the low hanging fruit has been picked. Yes, I know we need to educate the helicopter moms out there to stop dosing their kids with amoxicillin every time they get colds. Yes, yes, yes, there are a million reasons why bacteria are hard to kill. But the primary reason we are failing in drug discovery is the one we have been talking about for a while now. The shareholders don’t want to spend money on it. They’d rather look for get rich quick schemes. Meanwhile, there are tens of thousands of experienced American scientists who are vastly underemployed right now.
The next presidential candidates for 2016 better have policies to deal with this problem because the day of reckoning is fast approaching.