“Achieving precision medicine depends on federal resources to de-risk bold development, prototype impactful technologies, advance manufacturing, and put public good and public health on solid economic ground.”
“Science the Endless Frontier”, the 1945 report prepared for President Roosevelt by Vannevar Bush, established the U.S. science policy framework that stands to this day: the federal government shall provide funds for basic research and to train the next generation of scientists, while industry, propelled by the profit motive, would develop applications derived from the newly discovered knowledge – marketable technologies, diagnostics, therapeutics and cures that improve the length and quality of people’s lives.
Today, even more than in 1945, at least three obstacles impede industry-driven innovations that create applications of scientific discoveries: (i) risk of failure to successfully translate and apply new knowledge; (ii) insufficient near-term market; (iii) public good outweighed by uncertain long-term profit. The consequences of these obstacles are daunting. Two examples among many: microbial pathogens are approaching resistance to all existing antibiotics, yet industry is not developing new antimicrobials; the median time between a basic science discovery and its eventual development into an impactful FDA-approved drug is 32 years.
Achievement of the precision medicine continuum that bridges basic, clinical and population research, and enables transformative technologies that extend and improve lives, depends on overcoming the obstacles inherent in the Vannevar Bush doctrine. How might the federal government contribute funds, facilities and intellectual resources to de-risk bold developments and applications, to prototype impactful technologies that appear “impossible”, to advance environmentally-sound manufacturing and distribution at scale, to put public good and public health on solid economic ground?
I’m excited to chair the session “How New Public-Private Collaboratives Can Catalyze Transformative Health Breakthroughs” at PMWC 2023 Silicon Valley, January 25-27 (Program) which will explore these questions and examine novel approaches by which government can catalyze action by teams drawn from academia, industry and government, to carry innovation far enough forward that profitable business concepts can emerge that address challenges and deliver for the public good.
Joining me in this session will be Douglas Friedman, CEO of BioMADE (Bioindustrial Manufacturing and Design Ecosystem), a Department of Defense-sponsored agency, which seeks to develop bioindustrial technologies, such as serological testing and countermeasures, that reduce barriers to follow-on technology development, scale up and commercialization; Jay Keasling, CEO of JBEI (Joint BioEnergy Institute), a Department of Energy Bioenergy Research Center), Senior Scientist, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Professor of Biomolecular Engineering, UC Berkeley, and founder of Amyris Biotechnologies, which developed a synthetic biology approach to production of a malaria therapy; and Renee Wegrzyn, Director of ARPA-H (Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health), a Department of Health and Human Services agency, which seeks to develop capabilities to prevent, detect, and treat some of the most intractable diseases.
“PMWC is the perfect forum for cross-sector consideration of the imperative for federally-supported joint ventures that transform biological discoveries into technologies that extend and improve people’s lives.”
Vice Chancellor for Science Policy and Strategy, UCSF; Director, UCSF Precision Medicine; Professor, Cellular & Molecular Pharmacology, UCSF