Pharma World Magazine interviews Pietro Antonio Tataranni, Vice President Global Medical Operations Sanofi, on the future of the pharmaceutical research

Caterina Lazzarini

Each pharmaceutical researcher knows how finding new drugs is discouraging and how many diseases has had no pharmacological treatment yet. It seems that something has gone wrong in the last decades, but new hopes are arising from translational medicine. Pharma World Magazine has gone deep into the new drug discovery strategies talking with Pietro Antonio Tataranni Vice President Global Medical Operations Sanofi.

Dr Tataranni, what cause the difficulties in discovery new efficient drugs?

So far the development of a drug has proceeded according to a strict linear scheme that has identified molecules that in 70% of cases hasn’t survived to preclinical studies and Phase III. Even the impressive genetic discoveries of recent decades have not lead the expected results. We have identified all the thousands of genes of the human genome and the more than 200 thousand proteins they encoded. It is logical to assume that now we have all of the molecular targets for developing new drugs, but it is not so and there are very few new drugs on the market available to the patients. This is because we do not know how these molecular targets interact each other within very complex, and often redundant, molecular pathways that cause the development of a disease (or a series of diseases sometimes even clinically different) in a certain human phenotype.

Could you explain us what is translational medicine?

Translational medicine is not a concept for the future. Translational medicine is already here. Translational medicine puts the patient and his disease at the center of the drug development. In the past the discovery of a new pharmacological therapy started from the chemical molecules available, that were tested to find out the possible diseases in which they could be active. Now, the translational medicine has flipped this approach. According to this new vision the pharmaceutical discovery starts studying and understanding the molecular mechanism that causes a disease, and the chemical or biochemical entities, suitable to “fix” the situation, is rationally designed only starting from this knowledge. Studying these molecular pathway and crossing this information with the genetic information is very complicated and typically involves several different (often working in a different Countries) research groups that synergistically make and linked new discoveries.

Which are its effect on the drug discovery?

The research model based on translational medicine requires a structural change of the research laboratories due to the fact that research and discoveries cannot be limited to a single laboratory both public or private, large or small. Translational medicine requires a model capable of creating open and collaborative research among different ecosystems: pharma, biotech, universities can generate innovation together even working independently. This is even more important if we think that pharmaceutical research and drug development don’t stop but are evolving progressively including outcomes reported by the patient, evidence of effectiveness related to the real world, diagnostic services, disease management, drug delivery devices and innovative options to self-medicate. This will help us redefine the added value of the drug in the real context and reduce the gap between health supply and demand.