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[Column] Look ahead 10 years before investingDr. Song's medbiz column
  • By Song Hyoung-gon
  • Published 2017.12.13 17:48
  • Updated 2017.12.13 17:48
  • comments 0

It is said that waiting is the answer when it comes to new drugs that usually take 10 years to develop.

Developing a new drug is a long tedious battle against time. However, during the development process, a few drugs become a blockbuster by discovering efficacy other than the one initially thought of.

Cyclosporine, an immunosuppressant, has become the mainstay of organ transplantation in patients with renal failure, who failed with all other treatment methods. It was isolated from the fungus called “Tolypocladium inflate,” and was first researched as an anti-fungal antibiotic, but is better known as an immunosuppressant which dramatically reduces rejection after transplantation.

Viagra (generic name: sildenafil) was first developed as a treatment of hypertension and angina pectoris by Pfizer in 1989. During the early development phase, they found out that the drug had little effect on hypertension and angina pectoris while observing penile erection as a side effect and the drug was finally approved for use in erectile dysfunction by the FDA in March 1998.

Another blockbuster, Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) is made of willow bark. Since B.C., the willow bark had been known as a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory agent. On Aug. 10, 1897, Dr. Felix Hoffman of Bayer, Germany, succeeded in the synthesis of acetylsalicylic acid for the first time in the world and developed a drug now known as Aspirin.

The mechanism of Aspirin as an antipyretic agent, analgesic, and an anti-inflammatory agent was unknown until 1971 when it was identified by John vane, a professor of pharmacology in the U.K. In the same period, however, Aspirin was found to have side effects causing bleeding, but this side effect was further researched as a treatment for clotting disease. In 1988, Bayer launched low-dose ASPIRIN PROTECT as a treatment of myocardial infarction and to prevent transient ischemic attack recurrence.

Recent studies indicate the preventive effect of Aspirin in cancer that the incidence of colorectal cancer, prostate cancer, and ovarian cancer decreases if Aspirin is taken. Cancer cells develop when an inflammatory cell is repaired, and the assertion that Aspirin blocks inflammation itself has become convincing.

Developing a new drug is a lengthy process, and it is difficult to predict the outcome. It is uncommon that a drug is developed based on effects that were not originally thought of.

However, 10 years of a long journey does not apply to Korean pharmaceutical companies as they become a target of investors who seek for short-term trading profits once the companies are listed. Investors are not interested in having a new treatment available for those suffering from a disease, but only stock price rises reflecting high expectations.

I have received many calls from a lot of people with whom I had long lost contact after I became the CEO of a new drug-developing company. Some of them say they gave a call to say hello and asks about how the company is doing. There are also other people who ask me directly if there is any good news coming up, when to buy the stocks of our company and how they can make money with our shares. If I was to tell you this, this is a violation of Securities and Exchange Law.

Most people think that stocks of biotech companies are goose laying golden eggs and expect it to happen overnight. To those of you who are thinking in that way, I would like to say, “Please invest looking 10 years ahead. I will have a new drug on the market. But it will take more than five years from now and if you want to earn money quickly, do not buy stocks.”

cprkings@gmail.com

<© Korea Biomedical Review, All rights reserved.>

An emergency medicine specialist, Song Hyoung-gon served as head of the emergency department at Samsung Medical Center and vice president and spokesman of the Korean Medical Association. He is now the CEO of GemVax & KAEL. Contact him at cprkings@gmail.com.- Ed.

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