Science and Industry in Partnership

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Type: Blog Articles

Author: Rachel

It has been 100 years since the opening of the New York Museum for Science and Industry. 100 years ago the guests at the opening included Albert Einstein, and showcased some of the most advanced technology they had at the time.

In its time the museum hosted transparent men and women, steam trains, and new innovations in automotive and photography. The museum is sadly no more but a century on science and industry still walk hand in hand.

The global pharmaceuticals market is now worth around US$300 billion a year, and by 2017 it should have risen to US$400 billion. The medical devices market is expected to reach $228 billion by next year, the in vitro diagnostics market valued at USD 46.0 billion in 2011 is anticipated to reach $74.2 billion by 2018.

These huge industries rest on their scientific origins and employs thousands of people who research ways in which to improve human health and longevity (whilst turning a tidy profit).

For the pharmaceuticals market the 10 largest companies dominate one-third of the market, several making over $10bn every year. These companies on average spend a third of all sales revenues on marketing their pharmaceutical products – approximately double that of R&D spend – so is the progress of science being hindered by industry?

Its long been said that the blockbuster era of drug development is over, and whilst development costs for drugs and novel compounds skyrocket (not to mention the increased cost of clinical trials, insurance, and possible litigation threats) there is anxiety about investing in R&D programmes. To manage this risk in the midst of an economic crisis biopharmaceutical companies have had to change the way they work and how they work to retain the high levels of profits they are accustom to.

The market seems to have become more about risk management and sharing – large pharma merge, they invest less in in-house R&D and will acquire SMEs at a later stage when the risk is minimised, or outsource R&D to CROs – essentially buying the know-how. But is this model beneficial to the industry and furthering the partnership of science and industry?

It is easy to vilify large pharmaceutical companies. We all know they make huge amounts of profit and that they charge seemingly unacceptable amounts for life-saving drugs, however when we consider the level of risk incurred by companies in this sector we have to accept the high risk, high reward, nature of the industry. In the meantime excellent research is being undertaken across the industry – Global Pharma may spend less, but they still spend. SMEs are working hard for funding to pursue ideas and develop new treatments for patients, and Universities across the World continue to produce mind boggling research efforts that may one day lead to new treatments.

In the past 100 years we have seen the advance of science and industry as partners, and whilst the partnership may be fractious at times for the most part the industry is thriving, and long may it continue.