From Idea to Drug

The development of new drugs is a long and complicated process. It usually takes from 10 to 15 years to turn an idea into a product that is approved and marketed, and very few ideas make it that far. Only about 10 out of every 10.000 ideas that become the object of close investigation in the laboratory of a pharmaceutical company reaches the clinical development phase where it is tested on people. And only one of these drug candidates will actually become a drug.

Bridge builder in a complex process

Approximately every fourth person who works in drug development trained as a pharmacist, doctor, engineer, chemist, biochemist or similar. The majority work in research, development, production, quality assurance and information. Work is project oriented in all phases of drug development and typically involves interdisciplinary cooperation. People with an MSc in the pharmaceutical sciences are part of this cooperation and key to building bridges between the various professional groups.

Drug Development

The figure illustrates the process underlying the development of a new drug. The phases frequently overlap and the length of the individual phase varies. Drug development is fuelled by the interest to launch new drugs as quickly as possible – at the lowest cost possible – balanced by the interest to achieve maximum product safety shared by the regulatory authorities and the drug industry.

The figure shows the work areas and processes in the drug industry in which a person with an MSc in the pharmaceutical sciences could make a valuable contribution.

Clinical development

When a drug is being tested on people, we call it a clinical trial.

The purpose of the phases of clinical trials is to find out whether the drug or treatment form is safe and effective for treating a specific condition or illness. Special international guidelines ensure that ethics and good clinical practice are upheld.