Source : Myelin Repair Foundation
Posted: 31 Aug 2010 04:51 PM PDT
When scientists talk about their research on diseases like Parkinsons,
Alzeheimers or multiple sclerosis, it seems that the only thing that people want to know is when there going to be a cure. Scientists, in return, answer with matter of fact figures like 15, 20 or even 50 years. But in the grand scheme of scientific research and medical discovery, how many cures have actually been found by their predicted deadline? Not many, according to Emily Yoffe, from Slate Magazine.
In her most recent article titled The Medical Revolution, Yoffe discusses the types of promises that have been made due to technologies like stem cells and genomics. But instead of focusing on how these new medical practices may be the answer to our medical problems, she writes about how they might be the cause.
A decade ago the human genome was finally unraveled. It was at that time that we were supposed to understand how and why we are affected by such devastating diseases like those mentioned above that rid of us of our memories, our motility and most importantly the ability to lead a completely normal life free of complication. But that did not happen. Instead, Yoffe explains, scientists found that the human genome is much more complicated than they anticipated. Still, however, researchers use the fact that they have mapped the human genome to over promise cures to wishful patients. They do this not only because to discover anything in biology one has to be continually optimistic, but also to receive funding for their research. This money goes into the discovery portion of the drug development process but it does almost nothing to cover the cost of bringing the new drug to clinical trial – the critical step to making a drug target become a treatment.
Another broken portion of the drug discovery process is that the researchers are so focused on discovering a cure for a certain disease, and promising their patients that cure, that they forget to mention the target validation process which is required to catch the wandering eye of pharmaceutical companies. Most discovery biology gets trapped in the moat that surrounds the target validation process because of the money it takes to push a target through. This moat is called the valley of death in the medical field. That is because small molecules that show promise to become a treatment, by ridding animal models of disease completely, go there to die when they are not picked up by big pharmaceutical companies or they lose funded research.
Some may argue that the problem with the medical system is that there are not enough cures or treatments coming out of all of the funded research. But take a step back. Maybe scientists are just promising too much when they understand too little. That is one of the reasons that the MRF is traveling down the road less traveled of drug target validation. By having an Accelerated Collaborative Research model, our drug targets will be able to bridge the valley of death and successfully land on the side of clinical trials.
If you would like to read more about The Medical Revolution, go to the article written in Slate by Emily Yoffe here.