Big Pharma is Adopting Co-Creation to Develop New Drugs


Big Pharma is Adopting Co-Creation to Develop New Drugs

By Michael Contreras

Big Pharma seems to always be in the news for the wrong reasons. While the ‘Pharma Bro’ often steals the spotlight for his current scandal and exorbitantly pumping the price of his EpiPen 500% over the past six years, he is just one example of an industry perceived to be inflating the costs of its products at the expense of those whose lives depend on them. However, a small community within this industry is working to reverse this trend through co-creation.

Recently, a non-profit organization called Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) announced it is rethinking the way it discovers, researches, develops, and patents pharmaceuticals. In an effort to accelerate the tedious process of turning a drug discovery into an FDA approved product, the SGC is adopting crowdsourcing and collaboration tactics to help push drugs to the market more efficiently. As opposed to the traditional drug development procedure involving a single sponsor supporting the process from discovery to patent, SGC is experimenting with a “metastatic openness” approach. To highlight the differences between this collaborative method versus a conventional sole-source development operation, it is best to illustrate SGC’s co-creation approach step-by-step.


After experimenting a drug that delivers positive results, the experimenter traditionally publishes the findings in a scientific journal. Therefore, there is a significant gap in time between when the results are first discovered and when they are shared with the public. Alternatively, SGC scientists immediately circulate their findings to the public, allowing other scientists within the consortium to piggyback off these results in order to further develop a drug.


After crowdsourcing the initial results of a drug’s experimentations, the rest of the consortium is now able to conduct more extensive research on a drug. Instead of a single research department performing multiple trials, the research teams of every organization within the consortium has the necessary resources to research a drug in the path to approval.  


If a drug continues to yield positive results after intense research trials, traditional pharmaceutical sponsors rush to file a patent. However, the SGC prohibits its scientists from submitting patent applications. Instead of the cloistered approach to patenting that has glorified many groundbreaking scientists and amassed large pharmaceutical companies billions of dollars, CSG shares its research in order to accelerate the replication and testing necessary for approval. Only after successful research of a drug with proven results are the companies who sponsor these university labs able to file patents. Although the consortium’s scientists do not work under traditional intellectual property conventions, they gain the satisfaction of saving lives by accelerating the drug development process.

Although this co-creation approach to bringing new pharmaceuticals to the market won’t drive down costs, it will help bring drugs to the market faster. As a result, solutions to previously unsolved medical disorders are more readily available. This attitude of working towards a shared mission of drug development is a paradigm shift that consumers hope the industry will more widely adopt. Nonetheless, this form of co-creation is not possible without mechanisms such as data sharing and open source technology. As these mechanisms continue to proliferate, co-creation will become more commonplace in the pharmaceutical industry.

SensisChallenges is committed to improving healthcare through innovation. We value co-creation as a driving force behind pharmaceutical innovation, and were recently awarded “Most Innovative Division” for our work by the pharmaceutical marketing publication PM360.