Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Depressing, but predictable

What do you can get when you combine 1) an industry with incredibly long development cycles, complex products and high investment costs with 2) an inefficient political process that couples bureaucracy with a lack of real understanding of the industry in question.

This is what you get.

Drug development is incredibly long, costly, and unpredictable. Even worse, there are rarely clear cut home runs. Almost any treatment has side effects of some sort, the question is always whether or not the benefits outweigh the costs. There are reasons that biotech and pharmaceutical companies get it wrong so often, and that billions and billions of investor dollars are spent each year on programs that eventually wind up failing (many miserably). In short, this stuff is really, really hard to do, even for the smartest people out there.

This is not a "point the fingers" post. This is a "this is scary for all of us" post, perhaps even more so for those of us who live in Manhattan or other likely targets. And a large part of the scariness is how little can really be done about it.

Depressing, but predictable. Or maybe predictably depressing.


Katrina said...

Interesting. I heard Dr. Paul Nurse (2001 Nobel Laureate - Medicien) speaking today about his work. At the end of his lecture, he spoke about the problems with melding the researcher's desire for knowledge for knowledge sake with the public's damand for fast, predictable therapies. The result is usually politicians making declarative statements like "we will cure cancer by 2010" and throwing lots of money at a specific cause. This winds up with the inevitable failure of the research effort (science doesn't work that way) and a disillusionment on the part of public.

I'm feeling that this is another example where throwing lots of money at something doesn't mean that anthing useful happens.

Gadfly said...

Agreed. Oh, and the politicians would also appreciate it if you could time your progress to nicely match the campaign cycle. I mean, they might as well get credit for their farsightedness.

"I'm feeling that this is another example where throwing lots of money at something doesn't mean that anything useful happens."

Katrina - keep your voice down. If your college alumni association hears you talking like that, they might toss you out. ;)