Major challenges in the life sciences industry require long-term R&D, Solomon explained. In the pharmaceutical industry drugs are going off patent, squeezing profits as generics hit the market. At the same time, fewer new drugs are making it to market; as many as 50 percent of new drugs fail Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in Phase III clinical trials.
Failures so late in the development process result in costly losses. In addition, the FDA is leaning more toward safety concerns in drug approvals, driving the need for better toxicology tools and longer approval processes to ensure minimal legal ramifications.
The scientific community, she said, is beginning to reap the benefits of the immense learning in the life sciences over the past decade. In therapeutics, for example, the shift from small chemical molecules to biologicals -- drug candidates based on proteins or nucleic acids, for example-- will bring opportunity and change, but developing and getting these therapies to market requires unique technological, regulatory, clinical and toxicological expertise. Personalized medicine and molecular diagnostics, which promise to improve diagnosis and treatment of disease, are now becoming established in health care, at least at the leading edge.
Just last year the U.S. Federal Drug Administration approved the first test that measures the activity of genes at work. Agendia's MammaPrint(r) a breast cancer prognosis test uses Agilent's gene expression microarray technology. Time Magazine named MammaPrint one of "The Best inventions of the Year" (Nov. 12, 2007).
While measurement has historically occurred in discrete disciplines in physics, chemistry, electrical engineering and biology, today it is rare for any discipline to develop in isolation. For example, development of Agilent microarrays required the integration of physics, biochemistry, molecular biology, surface science, bioinformatics, manufacturing, system design and miniaturization. Solomon challenged the industry to transcend the boundaries of disciplines and organizations and to embrace the convergence of perspectives required to create value with long term R&D.