Asia is rapidly becoming a new frontier for drug development as Western companies seek to develop and register their products in Asia, while emerging Asian companies seek new capabilities to globalize products. As Asia continues to grow, the need for improved healthcare will drive the need for new medicines. To fully capitalize on the R&D opportunities presenting themselves in the growing markets of Asia, the biopharmaceutical industry will need to relinquish its faltering “go-at-it-alone” linear model of drug discovery and development in which one firm controls all the pieces, and shift towards a “wheel-and-spoke” model of multiple strategic partnerships with other biopharma and service providers companies with complementary strengths and capabilities.
The Need for Change Despite global economic growth, advances in medical technology and the approval of new medicines, important areas of unmet medical need remain. These include 1) neglected diseases in
the less developed parts of the world, neglected in large measure because investment in new technologies and medical innovations are driven by market forces rather than societal needs, 2) rapid industrialization of emerging economies, accompanied by environmental degradation and the westernization of diet with an epidemic of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and certain cancers, and 3) changing trends within developed countries, such as an aging population, rising obesity and a widening gap between the rich and the poor. In addition, rising public debt in the West in the face of an aging population is creating the double-edged challenge of an increase in need for healthcare and social services while simultaneously shrinking the proportion of young workers who form the tax base. Furthermore, the R&D strategy of major pharma companies in the past decade has been to move towards specialized products, with high retail prices and low marketing costs. This strategy calls into question not only the individual accessibility of these treatments to those who need it, but the affordability at a societal level (Figure 1). These considerations will continue to drive innovation in all aspects of healthcare, from discovery to delivery.
Unfortunately, the current model employed to foster drug discovery and development to help meet these needs is faltering, and the pharmaceutical industry is facing serious challenges that call into question the sustainability of the old paradigm and the survival of the industry. R&D costs have