If you want a cure for cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, or diabetes, don’t count on the academia, the National Institute of Health (NIH), or the biotech/pharmaceutical industry.
With all the money they have spent on researching these diseases, they have very little to show for it.
In 1971, during the State of the Union address, President Nixon declared the war on cancer proposing “an intensive campaign to find a cure for cancer.” Since 1971, Americans spent, through taxes, donations, and private R&D, about $200 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars. This money produced 1.56 million papers on cancer.
Yet, today we are no closer to a cure than we were in 1971. Why?
Consider what Dr. Almog said in his paper: Drug Industry in “depression” (Almog, D. Drug industry in “depression”. Med Sci Monit. 2005 Jan;11(1):SR1-4, I would urge you to read his paper, it’s an eye opener on relationship between academic research and commercial drug discovery):
“When the basic science/biology of disease is not available, no new drugs come to market.” With the billion of dollars spent by the NIH on basic science, and the millions of papers published on the topic, the question is, Why isn’t the basic science/biology of disease available? Individual discoveries in the biology of human disease are cornerstone in new treatments. However, in drug discovery, these basic science/biology discoveries are seemingly unrelated dots. To connect the dots you need a theory.
The Blind Men and the Elephant is a famous story about six blind men encountering an elephant for the first time. Each man, seizing on the single feature of the animal, which he appeared to have touched first, and being incapable of seeing it whole, loudly maintained his limited opinion on the nature of the beast. The elephant was considered a wall, a spear, a snake, a tree, a fan or a rope, depending on whether the blind men had first grasped the creature’s side, tusk, trunk, knee, ear or tail.
The story epitomizes the problem of the reductionist approach in biology. A recent book Microcompetition with Foreign DNA and the Origin of Chronic Disease, by Hanan Polansky, presents an alternative. The book identifies the disruption that causes atherosclerosis, cancer, obesity, osteoarthritis, type II diabetes, alopecia, type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, asthma, lupus, thyroiditis, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, graft versus host disease, and other chronic diseases, and describes the sequence of events that leads from the disruption to the molecular, cellular, and clinical effects.“
What are the implications of the NIH failure? A decline in the number of new drugs introduced by pharmaceutical companies.
Consider what professor Taylor says in his paper: “Fewer new drugs from the pharmaceutical industry (Taylor D. Fewer new drugs from the pharmaceutical industry. BMJ. 2003 Feb 22;326(7386):408-9): “In 2002 spending on medicines exceeded $400bn (£248bn; 377bn) worldwide. Optimists in the pharmaceutical industry believe that the global market for their products will go on expanding by around 10% a year, with the United States continuing to lead towards higher per capita outlays. Expenditure on research by the pharmaceutical industry is also increasing worldwide. It is now over $45bn a year—twice the sum recorded at the start of the 1990s—and projected to rise to $55bn by 2005-6. Concerns are growing, however, about the productivity of research being funded by the major pharmaceutical companies. … Empirical evidence indicates a crisis in productivity in pharmaceutical research. The number of medicines introduced worldwide that contain new active ingredients dropped from an average of over 60 a year in the late 1980s to 52 in 1991 and only 31 in 2001. The overall number of new active substances undergoing regulatory review is still falling.”
On the one hand, the expenditure on research is increasing. On the other, the number of new drugs is decreasing. The professionals call this situation the productivity crisis in drug discovery.
The NIH failed to produce the so much needed biology of chronic disease because it is caught in the reductionist mentality. Dr. Hanan Polansky offers an alternative. If we want a cure for cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer, or diabetes, we need to seriously consider his alternative.