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The Brave New World of Rapid Drug Development

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the topic of rapid drug development to the forefront of the life sciences sector. Ray Chohan at PatSnap, believes that we have entered the next generation of pharmaceutical development driven by new technology.


‘The Brave New World of Rapid Drug Development

Before the outbreak of COVID-19, the time taken to develop a new drug or vaccine could take upwards of ten years. Granted, peer reviews, the roll-out of field testing and international approvals were key barriers to speeding up the process, but what is not widely appreciated is the transformation that has taken place in the area of early-stage drug research – specifically where patents and IP are concerned.

In her new book Vaxxers, which discusses the remarkable development of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Professor Sarah Gilbert explains that her team managed to develop the first working vaccine within sixty-five days, simply by trialling novel approaches that had not previously been adopted.

Gilbert stresses that during the development and testing phases of the vaccine, the same precautions that would have been followed during previous new drug trials were taken, but the research phase was effectively streamlined thanks to pioneering new technology. While the concepts of rapid drug development and personalised medicine are far from new, the pharma industry’s sequencing of COVID-19’s DNA in just three days was clearly astounding, marking a defining moment for the life sciences sector and illustrating that the development process can be fast-tracked without compromising on safety.

A key differentiator in the development of the AstraZeneca vaccine was the adoption of new ways of working – namely through the adoption of technology, to reduce research time and increase collaboration between scientists.

While we are not out of the woods yet when it comes to COVID-19, with the race on to stay ahead of new variants and produce a vaccine capable of providing immunity against all betacoronaviruses, we have demonstrated what is possible – and achievable – in terms of rapid drug development.

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