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A Human Approach to Drug Development: Opportunities and Limitations


Robert A. Coleman

The pharmaceutical industry is failing in its primary function, with increasing expenditure and decreased output in terms of new medicines brought to market. It cannot carry on as it is, without sliding into a terminal decline. It must, therefore, take some positive steps toward addressing its problems. We do not have to look far to see one very obvious problem, namely, the industry’s continuing reliance on nonhuman biology as the basis of its evaluation of potential safety and efficacy. The time has come to focus on the relevant, and to realise that more human-based testing is essential, if the industry is to survive as a source of innovation in drug therapy. This can incorporate earlier clinical testing, in the form of microdosing, and promotion of the development of more-powerful computational approaches based on human information. Fortunately, headway is being made in both approaches. However, a problem remains in the lack of functional evaluation of human tissues, where the lack of commitment, and the inadequacy of the tissue resource itself, are hampering any serious developments. An outline of a collaborative scheme is proposed, that will address this issue, central to which is improved access to research tissues from heart-beating organ donors.