At the World Drug Repositioning Congress, the theme of the congress was best summed up by Rajesh Chopra of Celgene: “Prepared minds observing the unexpected”. Clearly in the case of drug repositioning, this mindset and approach comes through as scientists look to find new uses for old drugs. In all honesty, I went into this Congress with low expectations, but found it to be one of the best conference I have attended.
In a small conference room, about 50 leaders of drug development gathered to discuss new techniques and advances in drug repositioning. It was a good mix of participants representing pharma, academia, small biotech and patient advocacy groups. The flow of the presentations and intimate setting made for open dialog, especially on the science of repositioning. I was impressed with the advances put forward by the likes of Joel Dudley from Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, Justin Lamb of Genometry Inc (spinout from Broad Institute) and Michael Jackson of the Sanford-Burnham Research Institute. Clearly science is moving along quickly and very interestingly in drug repositioning.
The intimate venue and its diverse set participants – aided by a creative trivia game before dinner – led to a number of discussions that continued into dinner. I have been to many conferences, but rarely have the “networking” discussions been so substantive. I believe one reason this occurred was that a few speakers (self included) explored not just the science of repositioning, but the ecosystem in which it happens. We explored the business models of innovation. While scientists love to talk about the robustness of their science- and I’m right there with them – they are also very interested in how to help their work become adopted in the marketplace.
My presentation focused on how to enable empowering innovation. I explored what other industries have done or leveraged to advance innovation, and how these could be applied to drug development, specifically repositioning. I combined some ideas from Clayton Christensen’s recent NYT article on innovation, and a few other ideas I’ve noodled on over the last couple of years, including Creative Commons Model Patent License. I’ve attached my slides below.
At the heart of successful innovation is market adoption. For this to happen in an accelerated form – something that patients and shareholders are asking us to do – we need to explore new business models. We need to enable innovation and grow the market, not just become more efficient. I believe the best way for this to happen is not to (pretend to) control and approach innovation through reductionism, but rather enable the marketplace for innovation. This is at the core of our Lilly COI program.
Then – with prepared minds – start observing the unexpected.