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Pharma in 2020

New virtual reality technology may lead to the cost and length of clinical trials falling significantly by the year 2020
New virtual reality technology may lead to the cost and length of clinical trials falling significantly by the year 2020, according to a report form global consultancy, PriceWaterhouseCooper (PWC), that says pharma must do more to secure its future.

PWC's report, Pharma 2020: virtual R&D, says that the process of testing, researching and developing new drugs could be cut by two thirds and that success and approval rates could rise dramatically.

Steve Arlington, PWC global pharmaceutical and life sciences industry advisor leader, explained that making incremental improvements to the R&D process is no longer enough to counter the plummeting productivity of effective novel treatments.

"The resulting commercial deficit in pharma has enormous implications for the industry, society and governments as a whole," he said.

"To remain at the forefront of medical research, help patients live longer healthier lives and deliver the revenue returns shareholders have come to expect, pharma needs a faster, more predictive way of testing molecules before they go into humans."

The main idea being put forward by the PWC report is the creation of what it terms the 'Virtual Man.' By using existing technologies and data, it could be possible to create a computer-based model of the human body that could be used to test drugs in a virtual state. Academics around the world are already engaged in producing models of the heart, organs, cell systems and musculoskeletal structures.

According to PWC, the necessary in-depth information about the human body and its diseases could be acquired through an international collaborative knowledge-sharing network between pharmaceutical companies, academic institutions and independent research houses.

Some companies have already employed virtual technologies and have been able to reduce clinical trial times by 40 per cent. Anthony Farino, of PWC's US pharmaceutical and life sciences advisory leaders department, said that advances in drug testing could deliver substantial savings, halve drug development times and reduce costs per drug.

"New technologies can play a major role in helping pharmaceutical companies move forward, enhancing their ability to produce treatments that deliver measurable improvements in safety, efficacy and ease of compliance," he said.

However, he noted that "technology is not the answer to all pharma's problems. Many companies as well as the infrastructure of regulators and vendors that support the industry will have to make significant strategic, organisational and behavioural changes."

25th June 2008

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