A broader group of around 20 learned societies and professional bodies are also involved in specific activities and work streams.
What does the DDPG do?
The group’s work has largely focused on three main areas; industry–academia partnerships, knowledge and skills. A brief summary of each area is provided below.
As the presence of large pharma in the UK continues to diminish, a complementary and sustainable model involving industry–academia collaboration with public and private sector participation is urgently required.
The DDPG recognizes that, in practice, a range of approaches are required to support these complex and multi-faceted relationships. The Group is developing a series of complementary proposals around key skills and researcher mobility. Amongst a number of specific models being proposed for industry–academia collaborations, some member societies advocate the creation of Therapeutic Centres of Excellence. For further background, see the Research Fortnight article written by David Fox from the RSC: Keep making the tablets.
Learned Societies are already undertaking a range of activities to provide easier access to high quality data, to support medicines research and to promote precompetitive collaboration. To complement this work, the DDPG has supported a series of precompetitive workshops in key areas of medicines research, including a meeting co-organised by the BPS and the RSC on Target Validation and a meeting on chemical probes, organised by the Biochemical Society and the Royal Society of Chemistry.
The general trend towards downsizing among large multinational pharmaceutical companies has resulted in a lowered training capacity. It is vital that key skills are not lost and the DDPG recognizes that there is a window of opportunity to retain and develop world class talent.
As well as maintaining a deep knowledge of their core discipline, researchers increasingly need to have a working knowledge of aligned disciplines as well as the transferable skills that enable them to function effectively across scientific, cultural and geographical boundaries. One way to support this is through continuing professional development (CPD). The DDPG will be working alongside organisations such as Cogent and the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), as well as with the CPD schemes in our own component Societies, to ensure that training, CPD and mentorship opportunities effectively address the future needs of drug discovery researchers.
A number of the individual member societies within the Drug Discovery Skills Group (DDSG) have created skills statements. These outline the skills requirements for medicines development within their each individual disciplines:
It is also becoming increasingly important for researchers to move freely between disciplines and sectors in order to build networks and drive forward medicines research as well as to support career development. The DDPG is working with academia, industry and funding bodies to help establish a more 'permeable' environment that encourages researcher mobility.
For further background, see the Research Fortnight article written by Mark Downs, Chief Executive of the Society of Biology, Drug discoverers must adapt to a more complex world, and the RSC News article, Removing boundaries: Enabling the movement of researchers across disciplines and the industry-academia interface.
DDPG in the news
Representatives of the DDPG published a letter in the Financial Times highlighting the decline of the pharmaceutical industry in the UK. The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) published a response to this letter.
Comments from Mark Downs, Chief Executive of the Society of Biology, recently featured in the Nature article AstraZeneca juggernaut heads for Cambridge.
The DDPG issued a joint statement in response to the proposed takeover bid by Pfizer for AstraZeneca.
Researcher Mobility Workshop in Drug Discovery 7-8 December 2015
The DDPG organised a two-day residential workshop for 40 researchers across the life sciences (chemistry, biology, clinical) to share their scientific expertise, expand their knowledge of drug discovery and develop new networks and skills. They were joined by over a dozen experienced mentors, drawn from the drug discovery sector including AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Lilly, Pfizer, Leo Pharma, Institute for Cancer Research, University of Birmingham, RedX Pharma.
A major focus of the workshop was a drug discovery challenge which attendees tackled in small, multidisciplinary teams, presenting their solutions back to a panel of judges. The winning team shared a prize of £3000 and the runners-up shared a prize of £1000. All participants were encouraged to apply for a Researcher Mobility Grant (worth up to £500) during 2016 to capitalise on cross-disciplinary and cross-sector networks established during the workshop.
The event was funded by the following DDPG members: The Royal Society of Chemistry; British Pharmacological Society; Biochemical Society with additional sponsorship from The Royal Society, AstraZeneca and the Drug Metabolism Discussion Group.
For further details, read the blog from the Biochemical Society.