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Ann Pharmacother. 1999 Feb;33(2):241-6.

Rho Chi lecture. Pharmaceutical sciences in the next millennium.

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  • The Graduate School, State University of New York, Buffalo 14260, USA. triggle@buffalo.edu


Even a cursory survey of this article suggests that the pharmaceutical sciences are being rapidly transformed under the influence of both the new technologies and sciences and the economic imperatives. Of particular importance are scientific and technological advances that may greatly accelerate the critical process of discovery. The possibility of a drug discovery process built around the principles of directed diversity, self-reproduction, evolution, and self-targeting suggests a new paradigm of lead discovery, one based quite directly on the paradigms of molecular biology. Coupled with the principles of nanotechnology, we may contemplate miniature molecular machines containing directed drug factories, circulating the body and capable of self-targeting against defective cells and pathways -- the ultimate "drug delivery machine." However, science and technology are not the only factors that will transform the pharmaceutical sciences in the next century. The necessary reductions in the costs of drug discovery brought about by the rapidly increasing costs of the current drug discovery paradigms means that efforts to decrease the discovery phase and to make drug development part of drug discovery will become increasingly important. This is likely to involve increasing numbers of "alliances," as well as the creation of pharmaceutical research cells -- highly mobile and entrepreneurial groups within or outside of a pharmaceutical company that are formed to carry out specific discovery processes. Some of these will be in the biotechnology industry, but an increasing number will be in universities. The linear process from basic science to applied technology that has been the Western model since Vannevar Bush's Science: The Endless Frontier has probably never been particularly linear and, in any event, is likely to be rapidly supplanted by models where science, scientific development, and technology are more intimately linked. The pharmaceutical sciences have always been an example of use-directed basic research, but the relationships between the pharmaceutical industry, small and large, and the universities seems likely to become increasingly developed in the next century. This may serve as a significant catalyst for the continued transformation of universities into the "knowledge factories" of the 21st century. Regardless, we may expect to see major changes in the research organizational structure in the pharmaceutical sciences even as pharmaceutical companies enjoy record prosperity. And this is in anticipation of tough times to come.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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