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So Much For That: Sep 6, 2011

A new study published in Nature by Bayer Pharmaceuticals shows that a big percentage of interesting new results in medical, biology, or med-chem literature are impossible to reproduce, reports In the Pipeline's Derek Lowe. "To mitigate some of the risks of such investments ultimately being wasted, most pharmaceutical companies run in-house target validation programmes," the study authors write. "However, validation projects that were started in our company based on exciting published data have often resulted in disillusionment when key data could not be reproduced." The researchers looked back at four years' worth of oncology, women's health, and cardiovascular target validation efforts at Bayer, Lowe says. They found that in about 20 percent to 25 percent of drug development projects were the relevant published data in line with the validation program findings, and that in about two thirds of the projects, there were inconsistencies between published data and in-house company data that in some cases caused the termination of the projects. "How does this gap get so wide?" Lowe asks. "The authors suggest a number of plausible reasons: small sample sizes in the original papers, leading to statistical problems, for one. The pressure to publish in academia has to be a huge part of the problem. ... And it's really only the positive results that you hear about in the literature in general." Whatever the reason, he adds, it seems clear that irreproducibility of results is a far bigger problem than people realize.