Scientific real-time research problem-solving and pharmaceutical innovation

DOI: 10.1080/20421338.2017.1341093
Author(s): Chris William CallaghanSchool of Economic and Business Sciences, South Africa


Despite dramatic advances on a global scale in the scientific fields that underlie pharmaceutical innovation, the literature suggests that returns on investment in pharmaceutical R&D have not kept pace. Further, some argue that for the last 50 years advances in drug and vaccine development have plateaued. In the face of serious challenges, such as increasing antibiotic resistance, the threat of global pandemics such as Ebola, aging populations, increasing healthcare costs, and a general lack of access to medicines by many in developing regions, this paper argues that the current paradigm of pharmaceutical R&D is not able to address these problems adequately. Probabilistic innovation theory predicts how the convergence of technologies and methods such as expert crowdsourced R&D may ultimately contribute to real-time problem-solving. These potentialities are described as a new paradigm in R&D. Such a paradigm might be uniquely suited to an industry that has perhaps moved beyond small molecule R&D into a new era of complex protein-based R&D associated with an almost infinite ‘problem space’ that is dependent on economies of scale in R&D efforts. This paper therefore offers a perspective on these challenges, and provides certain arguments in support of novel, technologically enabled approaches to scientific problem-solving.

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