On Sunday afternoon, Grove is unleashing a scathing critique of the nation's biomedical establishment. In a speech at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, he challenges big pharma companies, many of which haven't had an important new compound approved in ages, and academic researchers who are content with getting NIH grants and publishing research papers with little regard to whether their work leads to something that can alleviate disease, to change their ways.
There is only one section of this entire article that makes sense. It is the final question of the interview, where Grove discusses the problem of conformity in the biomedical sciences. With that, I agree...with the grant system the way it is, there really is no good place (at least where government money is concerned) for extreme innovation. However, I think that Grove seriously underestimates the complexity of drug design and misses a basic understanding of much of biomedical research. The reason why there are no "new" big therapies for diseases like Parkinsons is that research hasn't found a way to fix it yet. Its not that we are not trying hard enough. As well, although not every scientific paper published seems to have a direct line to therapies, they are all important. The human body, and even just a single human cell, is so complex that even after over 100 years of intense study, there are still hundreds of questions left about how basic cellular machinery works. Its not that the pharmaceutical companies are hording a bunch of great new drugs and are too lazy to getting around to testing them. Its just that all too often, a drug will work great until it gets to clinical trials, where the complexity of the body causes the drug not to work as well as it did in the mouse models. Until we understand *EVERY* pathway and machine within a cell and between cells and between organs, we will never be able to design drugs that will cure all the horrible diseases. He makes an analogy between designing computer chips and design of drugs, which I think is a poor analogy. Whereas he can open a computer, take it entirely apart, and put it back together (thus understanding every connection making that computer run), biomedical scientists are unable to do the same with the human body. They struggle to make sense of the human body by studying every organism that is ethical to work on, and try to draw parallels. Anyway, I wish I could have been at this talk to see the reaction of the crowd. Something tells me he didn't receive a standing ovation. While the funding system may need an overhaul in some people's opinion, innovation isn't entirely muted in the research community. The NIH do have grants for new investigators and new lines of research, and as well, the NSF funds science that is a bit more out of the box as well. I think Grove should have done a bit more research before unleashing on the biomedical research community. I am sure it must be frustrating to be diagnosed with a horrible disease such as Parkinsons, but instead of lashing out, perhaps his time would be better spent raising awareness and funds for the biomedical research community.
Intels Andy Grove roasts the biomedical industry