Dollars and Jens
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Drug Discovery and Attention Biases
Drug researcher Derek Lowe writes on drug research failures:
I almost wish that more were made of these failures. It would be painful for the companies involved, but it would give people a better idea of how painful drug discovery can be. I had a friend who was always worried about flying anywhere, and I kept wanting to pop in every few seconds, all day long, with news of yet another plane that had landed safely in Chicago, Atlanta, LAX or wherever, just to get the point across. In the drug industry, though, we have the reverse situation - almost everything we try to put into the air crashes. There should be some way to get the point across that most of our drug candidates never make it, taking all their development money down with them.In most fields of research, failures are even more invisible than in drug discovery, since you don't have your products going through clinical trials for most of a decade before they get to market. There's a difference between a press release and a product, and an even bigger difference between a project your cousin's wife's sister is working on in a lab at a publicly traded company and a product.
There are a few more things I could add along these lines (don't think you know the odds of something, for example, just based on anecdotal evidence), but it was probably a mistake to add anything to Lowe's comment. I posted it here as relevant to investment psychology, but even if you're not investing and you already know what he's saying, it's worth re-reading and reflecting on once in a while.