bio-typing: a medical science blog

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Patient-funded drug research

In building this blog, I searched for my old medical science blog that I maintained in 2008, my last year or so of graduate school. Here is one of my posts I published back then that is still relevant…

If you are a biomedical research, scientist, healthcare profression, or just aware of the drug development process than you know how it can take an upwards of 15 years and $1 billion dollars for pharmaceutical companies and smaller biotechs to bring a drug to market. It can cause problems for both patients and the business side of these companies, delaying promising drugs and causing pharma to hustle to recoup discovery and marketing costs. This also contributes to the high cost of healthcare in the US and often leads to needy people being denied proper medications. However, a even lesser known problem with the drug development model is that pharma often does not pool their energies into developing therapeutics for less common diseases; for these disorders, there aren’t a big enough population of people to justify the costs of development. That is where patient advocacy groups and a new movement of patient-supported research is starting to pick up the slack.


Patient-supportd reasearch entails people who are financally-able funding drug discovery research. They often enlist the services of privately-owned labs or even pay biotech companies directly to help develop drugs. Today, I read a very interesting article online on the Wall Street Journal website called “Putting drug development in patients’ hands”. The article talks about a multimillionaire and cancer patient named Jay M. Tenenbaum who, after being frustrated with how slow the drug development process is and the lack of treatment options for him, developed a company called CollaboRx. CollaboRx is, in all practical terms, a virtural biotech. The focus of CollaboRx is collaborative science, bringing together scientists, clinicians, and clinical research organization from across the country to brainstorm and work toward ideas for promising therapeutics. CollaboRx also provides services like cell culturing and genetic profiling of patient samples in order to find potentially successful, tailored drug combinations from already FDA-approved agents. All in all, CollaboRx is looking to decrease the time to finding effective drug treatments for individual patients and subgroups of patients. The article goes on to describe similar stories of people whose love ones inflicted with rarer disorders including melanoma and Niemann-Pick Type C (NPC) involved themselves in patient-supported research.

If you think about it, though this is possibly for drug discovery, this still leaves some people out of the loop in the mean time. Fee-for-service aspects of these virtual companies can charge as much as $10-50K. 
What about the ethical issues involved? However, traditional funding sources for biomedical research is becoming scarer based on the decline of NIH funding so is patient-funded research does offer an additional alternative in the development of therapeutics.

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