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The search for a cancer cure demands collaboration - J&J research head

Challenging pharma environment means organisations need to work together to innovate

If pharma companies are to successfully tackle challenging diseases like cancer and Alzheimer's during times of economic restraint, it is vital they adopt a collaborative approach, according to Johnson & Johnson's (J&J) chief scientific officer.

Dr Paul Stoffels told the Healthcare Innovation Expo in London yesterday that the industry is moving from an internal to external approach to research, and said that “collaboration will yield the solutions of the future”.

“If we want to find the cure for cancer, it will only happen with collaboration,” he said, noting that Alzheimer's disease was another area where different groups need to work together.

This includes learning from previous faults, and Stoffels said: “We realise as a 50-year-old pharmaceutical company, we've made a lot of mistakes. And it's very important people don't make the same mistakes.

“So we want to share everything we've learned with people going forward in this space to make sure that research is a efficient and effective as possible.”

His comments came the day J&J announced the opening of its new innovation centre in London, which aims to support scientists, entrepreneurs and emerging companies to collaborate with in-house science and technology staff.

Driving J&J's approach is the changing economic environment, which Stoffels said has created a very high “innovation threshold” in pharma, with the market - including health technology assessments (HTA) - expecting more from new products to justify their price.

This is an especially hard challenge, considering that companies are currently researching medicines that are unlikely to reach market for more than a decade, and during this time thinking on what is an innovative, worthwhile development can change.

As an example, Stoffels highlighted the changing demands from HTAs about what is the appropriate standard therapy to compare a new product to.

“It's very challenging for us to predict the pricing pressures and the demands expected from trials,” said Stoffels.

“Comparators change, so if you do a trial now and compare it to what would be done seven years from now, it's a real change.”

It's a challenge that can be overcome, according to Stoffels, but only by working together. “Innovation is found where people ideas and technologies intersect,” he concluded.

14th March 2013

From: Research

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