Chas Bountra is a visionary. A human dynamo who seems to generate his own energy, who doesn’t know the meaning of ‘impossible’.
More formally, he is professor of translational medicine and head of the Structural Genomics Consortium at Oxford University.
Like many scientists working to develop new molecular entities – drugs to you and me – he realises the system is broken littered with barriers and blocks. It takes too long and is too expensive to develop new drugs for killer diseases.
He has said: “The cost of developing new drugs is spiralling. Analysis by Forbes [in 2012] showed that it cost as much as $12 billion to produce one new successful drug. “Most of the cost pays for failed projects that never see the light of day. From 1996 to 2009, research costs have almost tripled, while the number of drugs approved for use has more than halved. “Drug companies do similar research in parallel and in secret, and usually do not share their failures – and 90 per cent of potential therapeutic compounds fail.
It’s madness. “If companies shared their failures they would prevent each other going down blind alleys – and it would mean patients wouldn’t be used as guinea pigs for drugs that another company already knows won’t work.”
And like Lord Saatchi, he knows there is not one single answer to the problem.
His focus is on encouraging big pharma to share the results of their research so that both development time and costs decrease.
Like Lord Saatchi, he is pushing for greater innovation and recognises that the Medical Innovation Bill can play a part in speeding up the drugs discovery pipeline.
No one on the Bill team says innovation doesn’t happen now. It does. But, that is not an argument against more innovation.
As long as there are incurable diseases we must dedicate ourselves to greater, effective, innovation.
Prof Chas Bountra has been in the news this week (16th Feb 2015) as part of a group scientists pooling their resources to work together on a treatment for dementia.
We visited him at Oxford University last year. In this video he talks about his support for the Medical Innovation Bill, highlights a few of the challenges within the industry and talks about the innovative work of the Structural Genomics Consortium at Oxford University.