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J Intern Med. 2014 Sep;276(3):215-28. doi: 10.1111/joim.12234. Epub 2014 Mar 28.

Biomarkers: refining diagnosis and expediting drug development - reality, aspiration and the role of open innovation.

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AstraZeneca Translational Science Centre, Science for Life Laboratory, Solna, Sweden; Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, Solna, Sweden.


In the last decade, there have been intensive efforts to invent, qualify and use novel biomarkers as a means to improve success rates in drug discovery and development. The biomarkers field is maturing and this article considers whether these research efforts have brought about the expected benefits. The characteristics of a clinically useful biomarker are described and the impact this area of research has had is evaluated by reviewing a few, key examples of emerging biomarkers. There is evidence that the impact has been genuine and is increasing in both the drug and the diagnostic discovery and development processes. Beneficial impact on patient health outcomes seems relatively limited thus far, with the greatest impact in oncology (again, both in terms of novel drugs and in terms of more refined diagnoses and therefore more individualized treatment). However, the momentum of research would indicate that patient benefits are likely to increase substantially and to broaden across multiple therapeutic areas. Even though this research was originally driven by a desire to improve the drug discovery and development process, and was therefore funded with this aim in mind, it seems likely that the largest impact may actually come from more refined diagnosis. Refined diagnosis will facilitate both better allocation of healthcare resources and the use of treatment regimens which are optimized for the individual patient. This article also briefly reviews emerging technological approaches and how they relate to the challenges inherent in biomarker discovery and validation, and discusses the role of public/private partnerships in innovative biomarker research.


biomarkers; companion diagnostics; genomics; personalized medicine

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