Elias Zerhouni, the former National Institutes of Health director who now heads up R&D at Sanofi-Aventis, has found that translational medicine is more difficult than he'd expected, reports the Wall Street Journal's Health Blog. Zerhouni, the Health Blog notes, pushed for better translational medicine. Upon joining Sanofi, "I thought the solution would be simple," Zerhouni said at a press event.
That prompts In the Pipeline's Derek Lowe to write: "And all across the industry, people are muttering 'Do tell!'" though he adds, "In fairness to Zerhouni, he was, in all likelihood, living in sort of a bubble at NIH. There probably weren't many people around him who'd ever actually done this sort of work, and unless you have, it's hard to picture just how tricky it is."
At first, the solution Zerhouni tried was to make like a small, creative biotech. Now, he is trying an "open innovation" strategy in which R&D scientists would search for new idea internally and externally, as well as trying to understand a disease before trying to find a tool to treat it.
Lowe points out that understanding a disease takes time. "With a lot of these things, if you're going to first really understand them, you could have a couple of decades' wait on your hands, and that's if things go well," he says. "More likely, you'll end up doing what we've been doing: taking your best shot with what's known at the moment and hoping that you got something right. Which leads us to the success rates we have now."