We got an email update the other day from the folks at Faster Cures. It was titled “A Journey of Innovation.” In fact, a form of the word “innovate” appeared 13 times in the introductory portion of the email. It sounded like a familiar mantra, one that we’ve been preaching since our inception..
We all know that simply talking of innovation won’t be enough to effect the change needed to make drugs easier and less expensive to bring to market. And while everyone is aware, as Faster Cures noted, that the change we seek will require “innovat[ing] every step of the R&D pipeline,” haven’t organizations been pursuing innovation initiatives since the patent cliff was first highlighted in 2008?Where’s the payoff?
We’ll concede that any changes are likely to be incremental, and that any initiatives that lead to success will likely be held as trade secrets by the organizations that developed them. But we at Code-N believe that one reason for the innovation stagnation is the fundamental change in the way science is now conducted. Drug discovery originated from scientists going out into the field and grabbing plants or growing bacteria that could treat ailments. Discovery is defined by experimentation—testing whether something works, tweaking a formulation, honing an experiment, running with an idea.
Technology has enabled amazing advances in some realms of research. But it has had a stifling effect too. Paperwork, patents, procedures, and policies sit between a scientist’s ideas and an eventual product. Organizational bureaucracy and red-tape suppress innovation. And then there’s all of that data—data that could help scientists discern whether their insights have any validity, if only they had the means to interrogate it.
That’s where Code-N comes in. By bridging silos and connecting concepts rather than keywords, we’re removing what may be the biggest impediment to innovation—a scientist’s ability to explore an idea or brainstorm a theory at the speed of thought. Is this mechanism of action relevant to my disease area? Could this similar protein be a viable target? Could this failed drug be used in another way? Has someone else already had this idea? A scientist can ask this question using modern data infrastructures, but the answer may take days to find—and by then, the inspiration has likely faded.
Empowering scientists to explore science—that’s the way to spur innovation. I spoke at last year’s Faster Cures conference about our Green Field Technology, which in seconds enables scientists to determine if an idea has been published or claimed by someone else. Since that talk, we’ve been applying our technology to other areas, such as the ability to identify adverse events that might derail an idea or find ways to repurpose drug candidates. We’ll be sharing more of our work in the next few months—and introducing you to some of the new advisors who are helping us on our own innovation journey.