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Nonprofits: A Growing Force in Drug Development

Shepherding a drug from discovery to the market is a complex process that involves many actors. The process often begins with academic researchers making a breakthrough discovery in the lab and ends with pharmaceutical companies running large-scale clinical trials to demonstrate that the drug is safe and effective. But what about the middle of this process—the point at which the discovery is translated into something that could be meaningful for treating patients? Who is responsible for the translational, or preclinical, part of the process? There is a lack of clarity about who should assume that role; translational research is often too expensive for academics to perform by themselves, but it is too risky for pharmaceutical companies given the uncertainty about the discovery’s safety and market worthiness.

In this paper, we explore the multitude of methods that nonprofits use to support the translational drug development process in addition to when and where these models are most appropriate. To do so, we discuss several barriers to the translation of scientific discoveries to clinicready therapeutics and how nonprofits use their unique approaches to overcome these barriers.