Sean Parker has some ideas for how to improve drug development

Frank
November 7, 2018
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Sean Parker, who is known for being a cofounder of Facebook, disrupting the music industry with Napster and more recently for founding the $250 million Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, shared some of his observations on drug development and the “cancer politics” experience of forging collaborations between academia and the private sector.

He did so at an event in Philadelphia hosted by the online publication Axios. Here are some of the highlights from his conversation with Axios cofounder and executive editor Mike Allen.

Business boot camp for scientists

Parker called for helping scientists build better companies faster. The problem as he sees it is that scientists tend to make bad decisions because they lack the right business acumen. He recommended a business boot camp where scientists could learn about how to assemble a capable team and effective managers and leaders to build a strong company. I wonder if he knows about the National Institutes of Health’s I-Corps program to do just that?

He chuckled as he said, “I think there is a conspiracy to keep scientists in the dark because God forbid they made money and weren’t dependent on their university grants anymore.” 

Changing incentives for tech transfer offices

His criticism also included the amount of time it takes translational research offices to get deals done.

“There are moments in history where you realize the old institutions don’t serve you anymore,” he said. “Maybe tech transfer offices need to be incentivized a little differently. That speed matters when you are trying to get drugs to people and cure them. So maybe we shouldn’t spend six months to one year negotiating licenses to get the best possible deal. Maybe we should be trying to get the damn drug to patients as quickly as possible.”

Clinical trial rating system

To address the huge pain point of clinical trial recruitment, Parker proposed creating a system where it is easier to determine which trials are appropriate for each patient. He said that the process for making people aware of clinical trials needs to be improved.

“The problem with ClinicalTrials.gov is it is totally unbiased,” Parker observed. “It is just a directory. A lot of those clinical trials are somewhere between useless and harmful. So it is very difficult to know anything about whether you should enroll in a trial.”

Several companies have zeroed in on improving clinical trial recruitment from making it a more user friendly experience than the dense directory the ClinicalTrials.gov website is now. But it seems like a rating system on the basis of whether a trial has merit or not would become such a contentious issue it would be far better to just improve how they are labeled and grouping them so they are easier to find.

Parker noted that reducing the friction in the drug development process, particularly regarding collaboration between research institutions was one of the motivations behind him deciding to set up the institute.

“I have this constant influx of emails from relatives, friends and total strangers looking to get into clinical trials…They know treatments for their specific cancer may be on the horizon but don’t know how to access them. The system is not particularly user friendly. And yet I am constantly frustrated by my inability to connect a particular patient to a clinical trial because we just can’t get one started up fast enough. We can’t get this academic center to work together with that academic center to combine maybe two targets to treat that patient. 

“The institute that we have created is an attempt, I think a first generation attempt, to try to cut down those barriers.”

Photo: DrAfter123, Getty Images

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Frank’s source: https://medcitynews.com/2017/11/sean-parker-on-drug-development/

 

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