The pulling back of large pharma from psychiatric drug development over the last 15 years has been a cause of concern. The uncertainty of success with any novel mechanism raises questions concerning whether current funding mechanisms for the various components of drug development need to be revisited. Alternatively, advances in neuroscience and translational methods may provide a sufficient incentive for continued private sector investment.
Narrative commentary drawing on personal positions in both NIH and Industry devoted to translation of CNS compounds from bench to bedside coupled with specific examples of efforts to improve the selection of compounds to take into large clinical trials.
Strategies for increasing R&D productivity in the field of CNS drugs articulated over a decade ago have been implemented over the same period with pre-competitive consortia involved in developing the tools needed to show that before being taken into large trials adequate evidence of postulated brain effects are required. In parallel, the field and the FDA have focused much more on the search for domain specific treatments rather than those depending on traditional measures of efficacy in DSM disorders. NIMH programs such as RDoC and the “Fast-Fail” initiative are provided as efforts which influence and involve partnerships with industry.
The evolution of the field over the last decade is such that there is a shared focus across sources of funding in the public sector, especially NIH brain institutes, on the tools needed to de-risk psychiatric drug development to the degree needed to encourage private sector investment in the clinical trials needed to advance potential new treatments for areas of greatest need. Expansion of funding for translational tool development will have the highest impact on delivering novel treatments.