Gatsby Foundation

Biopharma Innovation Productivity

Principal Investigator: Prof. James Barlow, Prof. Nilay Shah, Prof. Paola Criscuolo, Dr Anne ter Wal

Co-Investigators: Prof. Nilay Shah, Prof. Paola Criscuolo, Dr Anne ter Wal

Funder: Gatsby Foundation

Duration: July 2021 – July 2023

Summary

This research study aims to understand how the UK’s pharmaceutical sector, including the biopharma component, can improve its ‘innovation productivity’ – the ability to develop and commercialise new products faster and more affordably. Not only is this essential to ensure that the UK remains globally competitive in this sector, but demand for affordable drugs is growing in the face of an ageing world population and threats such as antimicrobial resistance and pandemics.

We are particularly interested in the extent to which existing R&D models in the biopharma sector are being reshaped by innovations in engineering biology, computational and data analytics, and the associated ecosystems of innovative companies and research institutions. Together, these have the potential to speed up drug development, but also disrupt traditional pharmaceutical companies as new players providing data analytics and other technology platforms emerge.

This is especially evident in the field of drug ‘repurposing’, championed for many years as a way of bringing new drugs to patients faster and more cost-effectively. The combination of technological innovation and specialist start-ups may improve the likelihood of success in repurposing efforts, but the dynamics and implications of this trend are poorly understood. Research is necessary to ensure that the UK’s biopharma sector remains competitive in this area of drug R&D.

We are conducting a two-stage study. Stage 1 investigates the key technology, business and policy trends influencing the productivity of the biopharma sector and its wider ecosystem. From this, in Stage 2, will focus on the impact of these trends on drug development. We will use quantitative and qualitative data to explore the innovation productivity implications of emerging technologies for drug development and repurposing, e.g. speed and costs of development, and factors which influence success. We will also draw conclusions on areas where government policy is needed to support the science and technology base, and start-ups and specialist firms, in this sector.