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Accepted Paper:

Academic drug discovery units: pharmaceutical innovation in the public sector?  
Michael Hopkins (University of Sussex)

Short abstract:

This study explores the role of Academic Drug Discovery Units (DDUs) in a range of UK settings. Findings focus on the organisation of DDUs, including institutional support and how they view their success. Persistent strengths, challenges and the pull of the traditional industry model, are discussed.

Long abstract:

This paper focuses on drug discovery initiatives hosted by organisations outside of the commercial pharmaceutical sector. We draws on 18 interviews with staff from eight universities and research institutes, hosting the drug discovery activities at different scales (from small teams to whole dedicated institutes) where support mechanisms have facilitated the establishment of these dedicated groups. These groups have been selected for study as a representative sample of a wider population, comprised of around 30 groups across the UK. Qualitative thematic analysis has been used to identify institutional support mechanisms available to these groups, as well as the types of activities undertaken in non-commercial settings.

Over the last 20 years, many drug discovery groups have sprung up outside of the commercial sector in the UK. Most have grown and persisted by accessing state or NGO funding to undertake novel early-stage drug discovery that is generally considered too high-risk for industry to undertake. Despite the opportunities afforded by working outside of the industry the studied organisations relied very much on former industry staff, who they employed.

Being a part of academic research organisations, those engaged in drug discovery are generally afforded very few special conditions for their activities, other than start-up funding (e.g. to set up labs). Staff may also be diverted from drug discovery by traditional academic duties such as teaching. Where groups have enjoyed some autonomy, these have tended to organise themselves more like small firms. Most seem focused on delivering projects that meet the needs of the established industry.

Traditional Open Panel P129
Transforming pharmaceutical innovation
  Session 1 Wednesday 17 July, 2024, -