Paul Workman features in BBC Radio 4 science special
Professor Paul Workman discusses the issues facing the pharmaceutical industry – and the role that non-profit and academic organisations like the ICR can play in driving drug discovery progress – in a BBC Radio 4 special.
The programme is now available on BBC iPlayer
Called The End of Drug Discovery, the programme presented by veteran science broadcaster Geoff Watts explores the future of drug discovery in the UK. It comes amid falling profits in the pharmaceutical sector as many drugs come off patent; rising costs of getting medicines to market; and a growing realisation that drug companies will not be able in future to rely on so-called blockbuster drugs.
The programme “examine(s) whether sources of better pharmaceutical treatments are drying up, in light of reports that suggest making new and improved drugs available to patients is becoming more difficult and increasingly expensive,” the BBC said.
Professor Workman, Director of the ICR’s Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit and Deputy CEO, explains how not-for-profit organisations like the ICR can continue to drive progress.
He describes the ICR’s successful model of drug discovery and development, which has led to 16 new drug candidates being discovered over the past six years, with six of these progressing to Phase I clinical trial and one drug – abiraterone – being licensed in the US, Canada and Europe for patients with advanced prostate cancer. This success was recently recognised by the American Association of Cancer Research’s Team Science Award.
Professor Workman explains how the ICR carries out the initial high-risk stages of drug discovery research on new molecular targets in its multidisciplinary teams of biologists and chemists. After showing proof of concept that the new target is “druggable” and that good progress has been made towards a drug, ICR scientists then commonly collaborate with pharmaceutical companies, working together to accelerate the discovery of the final clinical candidate, and thereby maximising the likelihood of achieving patient benefit as early as possible.
A key point emphasised by Professor Workman is that non-profit drug discovery groups like the ICR are able to help overcome the major worldwide problem of the “Valley of Death” – the failure to convert many exciting basic research discoveries into innovative medicines. By “de-risking” a new target project, the ICR is able to bridge the Valley of Death and increase the likelihood that innovative personalised medicines will succeed, benefiting patients and helping the pharmaceutical industry to succeed at the same time.
The 40 minute programme, part of the File on Four series, was first broadcast on Tuesday 22nd May at 8pm and is repeated on Sunday 27th May at 5pm.