By

David Shaywitz

26
May
2024

The Tao of Drucker: Lessons For Drug Developers from GLP-1

The two broad categories of medical discovery that command the most attention are insights resulting from rare, informative genetic conditions (see here) and advances resulting from fortuitous observations.   A canonical example of the value of extreme genetic phenotypes is the patient with familial hypercholesterolemia who inspired Brown and Goldstein’s scientific pursuit of cholesterol metabolism and led to the statins. Similarly,...
Read More
13
May
2024

Here’s The Skinny on Four New GLP-1 Podcasts

GLP-1 medicines are obviously having a real moment – medically and culturally.  These once-weekly injectables, which reduce appetite and result in significant, long-lasting (so long as you’re taking them…) weight loss, have been demonstrated to have a number of important health benefits beyond simply shedding pounds.  In March, Novo Nordisk’s semaglutide (Wegovy) was approved by the FDA for its ability...
Read More
4
May
2024

Success in Film and Pharma: Contingent But Not Random

Film and pharma, like many creative endeavors, exist in a world of power law economics, where a handful of exceptionally successful products account for a massively disproportionate share of the total revenue.  Consequently, in both domains, there’s a powerful incentive to “pick winners.” Every studio head and every R&D leader tries desperately to do this.  But there’s a problem: as...
Read More
17
Feb
2024

New Medical Podcast (Like Winter and the 2024 Red Sox) Offers Bleak Outlook, While Four Books Instill Hope

As Bostonians tentatively emerge from the bleak cold of another New England winter and begin to search for signs of spring, we instinctively turn to the Red Sox.  Unfortunately, I am informed by my daughters that the team’s prospects appear dismal this season, so we’ll need to look elsewhere for hope. We might consider instead Boston’s other great preoccupation: biomedical...
Read More
9
Feb
2024

Botox: A Luminous Example of Field Discovery

In this weekend’s Wall Street Journal, I review Death To Beauty, a new book by Dr. Eugene Helveston. It’s about the fascinating history of botulinum toxin and the California ophthalmologist, Alan Scott, who drove it into clinical use. The book review, of course, speaks for itself, but I wanted to highlight for TR readers an aspect of the story that...
Read More
21
Dec
2023

The Cultures of Large and Small Pharmas, plus: Can They Overcome The “Productivity Paradox” and Seize the AI Moment?

Spurred by several questions I’ve received from students and trainees, today’s year-end column examines some of the ways large biopharma companies are fundamentally different from small biotech companies and startups.  We’ll also ask whether biopharma can overcome new technology’s dreaded “productivity paradox” and learn, quickly, how to apply AI to accelerate drug development. Large Pharmas vs Smaller Companies (Including Startups)...
Read More
19
Nov
2023

Industry Insights: Five Key Figures From The Atlas Annual Review

I’ve always been captivated by and drawn to the intersection of raw emerging science, ambitious determined talent, aggressive capital, and savvy strategy that come together in an often-combustible mix to generate novel therapeutics.  At the earliest stage, it’s critical to figure out what you’re going to aim at (the molecular target) and what type of therapeutic you’re going to use...
Read More
8
Nov
2023

Architects and Gardeners, a Captivating Developmental Biology Book, & an Inspiring Immigrant Story

Architects and Gardeners Most leadership offsites I’ve attended have included some flavor of personality assessment – not so much to formally classify us, but rather to make the point that different people have different styles, and to emphasize that you can’t assume everyone you work with approaches the world the same way you do.  In this spirit, I wanted to...
Read More
6
Nov
2023

Think Clinical Trials Are Working OK? Ask a Cancer Patient

I can’t stop thinking about a recent series of poignant blog posts, written by an emergency room physician affiliated with the Mayo Clinic. Her husband has been battling a terrible cancer – recurrent/metastatic head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.  Given what she does for a living, the author, Dr. Bess Stillman, is about as well-positioned to be a savvy patient...
Read More
11
Sep
2023

Sterile Information: Early Forecasting Not The Answer To R&D Productivity Woes

Two recent Wall Street Journal deep-dives nicely bookend a critical, and unresolved, tension faced by large pharmaceutical companies: how can their R&D organizations discover, develop, and deliver the new medicines patients await, and the growth and return on investment that shareholders demand? Early this year, I discussed an April 2023 profile of Lilly by journalist Peter Loftus, who described how the company, led by a physician-scientist...
Read More
31
Jul
2023

Lessons For Biopharma from a Healthcare AI Pioneer

As drug developers consider how to leverage AI and other emerging digital and data technologies, they look to related businesses, such as healthcare systems, for lessons and learning.    We would be hard-pressed to find a better guide to AI in healthcare than Ziad Obermeyer, an emergency room physician and health science researcher at the University of California-Berkeley. His research...
Read More
17
Jun
2023

Learning From History How to Think About the Technology of the Moment

Generative AI, the transformative technology of the moment, exploded onto the scene with the arrival in late 2022 of chatGPT, an AI-powered chatbot developed by the company OpenAI.  After only five days, a million users had tried the app; after two months: 100 million, the fastest growth ever seen for a consumer application. TikTok, the previous record holder, took nine...
Read More
4
Jun
2023

Pharma R&D Execs Offer Extravagant Expectations for AI But Few Proof Points

As the excitement around generative AI sweeps across the globe, biopharma R&D groups (like most everyone else) are actively trying to figure out how to leverage this powerful but nascent technology effectively, and in a responsible fashion. In separate conversations, two prominent pharma R&D executives recently sat down with savvy healthtech VCs to discuss how generative AI specifically, and emerging...
Read More
21
May
2023

Big, If True: Opportunities and Obstacles Facing AI (Plus: Summer Reading)

Today, we’ll begin with a consideration of the promise for AI some experts see in healthcare and biopharma. Next, we’ll look at some of the obstacles – some technical, some organizational – and re-visit the eternal “data parasite” debate. Finally, we’ll conclude with a few suggestions for summer reading. The AI Opportunity: Elevating Healthcare for All Earlier this month, I...
Read More
15
May
2023

Biopharma Innovation – Beyond The Breathless Headlines

Biopharma relies on innovation to stay in business. Success depends on our collective ability to discover, develop, and deliver new products that cure or meaningfully mitigate disease over and over again. Patents allow for innovators to be rewarded, for a while. When patents expire, allowing us to purchase powerful generic medications like atorvastatin for pennies, manufacturers must come up with...
Read More
8
Apr
2023

Tech, Pharma, and the Uneven Distribution of the AI-Enabled Future

The worlds of technology and entrepreneurship are captivated by recent advances in generative AI and large language models (LLMs).  The arrival of ChatGPT, developed by OpenAI (a startup partnered with Microsoft), caused Google to declare a “Code Red,” akin to “pulling the fire alarm,” the New York Times explained. The latest class of startups at Y Combinator are reportedly flocking...
Read More
1 2 3 6