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Kibur Science Spotlight: What is open innovation and what does it mean for the biotechnology industry?

When COVID-19 brought everyday life and routine to a grinding halt, hospitals and medical staff worked tirelessly to prevent the spread of the virus, and researchers and pharmaceutical companies worked feverishly to develop effective vaccines. By December 2020, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved by the FDA and mass vaccinations began in the United States. This life-saving vaccine couldn’t have been brought to market without the strategies employed by open innovation as highlighted in the press release where BioNTech acknowledged a large list of partner companies and researchers that led to the rapid delivery of an effective vaccine. Open innovation was adopted by the pharmaceutical and biotech industries in the early 2000s in response to declining R&D productivity from a closed, vertically integrated approach to innovation, where all the key activities are performed inside the company.  Suitable for discovery and development of blockbuster drugs, it became increasingly clear the closed innovation model was inefficient and too rigid to address the market necessity of developing novel drugs targeting smaller patient populations as the blockbuster opportunities dwindled and the revenue from “me-too” drugs became insufficient.

The term “open innovation” was first coined by Henry Chesbrough, a professor at the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business, in 2003 in his book Open Innovation: The New Imperative for Creating and Profiting from Technology, as a “paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to advance their technology”. It explains that the usage of collaboration and external resources and ideologies can create many benefits for a company relative to the previous closed approach to innovation. Open innovation can lead to faster, nimbler and cost effective development of novel drugs to treat smaller disease populations by accessing a wider range of resources and perspectives. 

Within biotechnology, open innovation can lead to advancements with life-changing results and enables these advancements to be more accessible to others. Open access and data sharing allows companies to share their findings, both successes and failures, with a wider audience which can further encourage collaboration and development. Recent research has found open innovation has stimulated new collaboration models ranging from Academic Drug Discovery Centers to facilitate and speed translation of new drug ideas from academic labs to industry; to crowdsourcing that actively engages the public to derive solutions to drug discovery and development challenges by hackathons and prize contests; and, the direct involvement of non-professionals in scientific research, referred to as “citizen science”, that can be highly effective in gaining new knowledge. 

Scientists that receive NIH funding, are encouraged to share research tools they have created in their own laboratories with other researchers, aiding the dissemination of new software algorithms to novel research reagents.  Additionally, philanthropic foundations funding drug discovery and development, like Gates Foundation, require award recipients to ensure their data is open, accessible and readily available to all.  The Human Genome Project launched in 2003, was a global effort to sequence the entire human genome and the “project was critical for advancing policies and earning increased support for the open sharing of scientific data”. 

At Kibur Medical, we believe open innovation strategies are essential towards transforming cancer care and diagnosis. Accelerated development and access to a broad range of resources and perspectives are significant factors that can bring about life-saving innovations, especially within an industry where time is such an important factor. To accelerate the pace of discovery of new cancer treatments and diagnostics, open innovation-based strategies need to be utilized to increase R&D efficiency, the likelihood of clinical success and patient accessibility. 

Interested to read more?   Find more information on Open Innovation and other related publications at ResearchGate.


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