Mobile chemistry, collaboration and the future of pharmaceutical research

I don’t often weigh in on the grandiose topic of the future of the pharmaceutical industry, partly because my closest experience with the subject is based on designing software to help other chemists with drug discovery: this gives me a great detail view of some of the trees, but as far as the forest is concerned, that has to be covered by reading news and discussions with friends and colleagues. But it doesn’t take a seer to figure out that the pharmaceutical industry is trying to reinvent itself, with increasingly radical (or desperate) attempts to find a way to comfortably survive, if not actually return to the boom times of decades past.

A recent blog by Sean Ekins about the virtualisation of R&D mentions some of the trends towards breaking down the monolithic practices that were so successful in the past, and putting them back together out of myriad alliances between contractors, academia, government and of course the pharma companies themselves. My professional interest in this redesign is of course software: in order to permit these disparate research interests to collaborate successfully from all around the globe, we’re all going to need lots of software. And not the old kind that your IT guy installs on the locked down computer at your desk, which you use to show your boss what you’ve been working on when he walks down the corridor to see what you’ve been up to. Continue reading