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Unlocking the power of translational medicine

By strengthening current translational medicine (TM) practices and preparing for advances, organizations could enhance the power of TM and increase its influence on R&D productivity overall.

With approximately 90 percent of phase I compounds failing to reach the market 1 high attrition rates remain a major obstacle for the biopharma industry. To help tackle this challenge, many companies are looking to the discipline of translational medicine (TM). To understand the progress that has been made, we conducted a survey of TM leaders from 25 of the top 50 pharma and biotech companies in the United States and Europe. We adopted a broad view of TM, and included all efforts from preclinical to late clinical development. TM practices integrate scientific (for example, biomarkers), technological (for example, in vitro testing modalities), and methodological (for example, in silico trials) advances to both enable more effective decision making in R&D and enhance coordination not only among functions within a biopharma company but also with various industry, academic, and government players.

All the survey respondents agreed that TM is an important means to improve clinical outcomes, accelerate R&D activities, and develop more personalized medicines. However, there was a spread in how companies viewed the current role of TM: from “the core of all our drug development activities” to less central to their R&D organization. When asked to identify the greatest challenge facing their TM groups, 76 percent of respondents pointed to the difficulty in defining clear metrics to measure long-term success, given the additive impact of TM activities on the overall R&D productivity. Most respondents (92 percent) agreed that aligning TM groups with therapeutic areas is crucial or beneficial in allowing companies both to build specialized expertise and capabilities and to communicate and implement ideas in a timely way.

Unlocking the power of translational medicine” was first published in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, February 2019, Volume 18, pp. 248–49, and is summarized here by permission. McKinsey.com readers can download a complimentary copy of the full article here.

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