Money making science - The chemistry of almost everything (8/31)

Uploaded by OUlearn on 03.09.2009

So how can a chemist like me set about making a fortune?
The pharmaceutical industry
is one of the most profitable industries that there is.
It needs to be because it funds a lot of research and development
and that's risky.
But you can make about 40 pence in every pound in terms of profit
before research and development.
And that must be five or six times as profitable
as, let's say, a supermarket.
Shareholders invest in a company like British Biotech
because they're expecting to see an enhancement in the share price.
Indeed if this drug is launched successfully,
the share price will not just go up by 20%,
it will double, treble or even quadruple.
The drugs industry looks at diseases with a number of key characteristics.
One is that they're common. Lots of people have them.
Two is that they're suffered by people in the wealthy,
industrialised world because they can pay for them.
Three, preferably they're recurring, they come up again and again
which means that people have to keep returning for a prescription
or even better, be on permanent medication.
The drugs industry loves that.
You could say that the common cold is extremely common
but you could also say that most people always recover from it.
It's not necessary to give treatment.
But there are a number of diseases, for example, dementia,
obesity, the various cancers, athro-scelrosis,
all sorts of diseases which are very common
and which there's no good treatment and people die early from them
if they don't get treatment.
So those are the areas where we believe
the money will be made in the future.
They used to have a phrase in the industry of 'molecular roulette'
which was very much the way it was all through the '50s and the '60s.
What you did was you got a disease,
you went out and you found millions upon millions of natural compounds
often by going out to the rain forest, this was a popular one,
and just digging up earth and bringing it back to the lab
and seeing what microbes you could identify.
Then you just slung them in and tried them out one after another.
They used to reckon they could get an interesting compound
about one every 100,000 tries.
But today one can be much more specific.
The power of chemistry and biology allows us to understand
how a disease process occurs
and to interfere at a specific point in that disease
and design a drug using computers and biological information
to actually get a drug that pinpoints a switch and turn it off.
This year we've just reported losses of £21.5 million
which is a very large sum of money.
But nearly all of that expenditure has been in investment
in research and development of new drugs.
In two years' time we will launch our first drug, a new cancer treatment,
and that drug should generate revenues of hundreds of millions.
It costs an estimated $200 million to develop a new drug.
You don't really know if that's going to pay off.
It might fall down at the last hurdle, it may not get approved,
it may never be on the market.
In which case that $200 million has got up and walked out the door,
there's nothing you can do about it, it's wasted.
I believe Britain needs more successful, thriving,
growing industries
and pharmaceuticals is an area we've been successful in in the past.
I'd like to build another Glaxo, another SmithKline Beecham,
another ICI.
If we achieve that, it'll be a lasting memorial.