Scientists push international agenda for new medicines research

The health community is moving towards a new era of medicines, but how should it best go about navigating the change?

The move towards systems therapeutics was discussed at the International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) 6th Pharmaceutical Sciences World Congress (PSWC) as pharmaceutical scientists, the pharmaceutical industry, pharmacy practitioners and medicines regulators from around the world came together in Stockholm, Sweden.

The challenges was to discuss a plan for discovering and developing new medicines based on systems biology.

“Diseases and their treatments can no longer be thought of as single, isolated mechanisms,” said Prof. Bert Leufkens, professor of pharmaceutical policy and regulatory science, Utrecht University, the Netherlands, and chair of the discussion.

“We are entering a new era of medicines —‘systems therapeutics’ — which is based on our deeper understanding of disease networks and genetics.

“The scientific community and other stakeholders now need to make provisions for applying this knowledge to the development of medicines and for furthering it so that we ensure access to novel systems therapeutics for patients around the world.”

The discussion, led by a panel of experts representing different sectors, focused on a number of issues, including the scientific aspects that need to be addressed and developed, how to structure collaboration between scientists, and the education and training scientists need so that people benefit from this new field of medicine as soon as possible.

“The scientific aspects that need to be addressed and developed to fully exploit the systems approach to drug development are a realistic and solid integration of pharmacogenetics and pharmacogenomics with drug delivery and drug design, incorporating engineering approaches to facilitate reproducible and cost-effective manufacturing of future medicines that are personalised,” said Prof Erem Bilensoy, president of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Sciences

“Open innovation and global collaboration is the required ecosystem to realise this goal.”

On education, Prof Marilyn Morris, past-president of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists said: “Our success and innovation in the global pharmaceutical sciences fundamentally depends on a strong system of graduate education.

“Our graduate programs need to be scientifically strong with an emphasis on interdisciplinary research, and need to emphasise problem solving and oral and written communication skills in order for our students to be successful.

“To do so, programs must be adequately funded, not only for research costs, but also with respect to graduate fellowships.

“Increased funding by government, industry and foundations is needed to support graduate fellowships and internships, and will be crucial for the maintenance of a strong system of graduate education.”

“It was the right time and place for this debate to have taken place,” Prof Leufkens said.

“We will now take the conclusions forward and produce a position paper presenting the scientific view on systems approaches to drug development in the context of global health.

“This document will be an advocacy tool for use in important interactions with policymakers and funders as we move into a new research agenda on drug development.”

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