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Genomics Technologies Key to Improving Drug Development Process - Accenture

NEW YORK, April 24 - Pharmaceutical companies must continue incorporating genomics technologies and adapt to the Internet as a management tool if they hope to decrease the costs associated with drug development, consulting firm Accenture said in a report released Tuesday.

“Emerging technologies such as functional genomics, proteomics, use of microarrays, high-throughput expression systems, bioinformatics, and three-dimensional target structure are felt to be the answer to the challenge of validating genomics targets,” Accenture said in its “High Performance Drug Discovery” report, which was prepared by its Pharmaceuticals & Medical Products group.

Accenture warned that pharmaceutical companies would have to increase the development of new molecular entities by 50 percent in order to meet their earnings targets in the next decade.

In addition to adopting genomics technologies, the report, which charged the pharmaceutical industry with failing to meet its pipeline improvement goals over the past four years, said that drug developers would also have to optimize their research and development operations, decrease bottlenecks, increase economies of scale, forge effective partnerships, and incorporate integrated technology platforms into their R&D processes.

“Most discovery professionals recognize the potential of the Internet as a vehicle for sharing information and providing new access to and interface with both technological and expert resources, but they have not thought through how it could impact their operational approach or performance,” the report said.

Pharmaceutical companies have traditionally been concerned that web-based drug discovery services would increase their vulnerability to hackers.

Accenture, which surveyed 15 drug discovery companies for the report, an update of a 1997 study, said that companies that make use of the new technologies and forge partnerships would have the greatest success in bringing down costs and producing better medicines faster.

The report noted that the current pharmaceutical research processes at many companies are incapable of unleashing the potential that genomics and information technologies offer, adding that pharmaceutical and biotech companies spend an average of 250 full-time employee years, or about $70 million, for each new molecule brought into development.

However, Accenture did say that as of 1999 partnerships between pharmaceutical and genomics companies were on the rise. According to Accenture some 381 tie-ups were reported in 1999, with every one of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies in one such alliance.

The report also said that the drug discovery industry is split over its opinion of personalized medicine and whether it will have a significant impact on the pharmaceutical industry.

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