When a colleague and I started our medical device company in 2009, we were in our second year at Harvard Medical School. Some classmates joked that they would still be in residency by the time we had moved on to our next big idea. We knew better — we expected it to be a long haul. Eight years into our journey, thousands of individuals have used our product in countries where it has been approved. But we have yet to gain approval in the U.S. — a long and expensive process.
In 2016, the United States Food and Drug Administration approved 22 new drugs, down from 45 approvals in 2015. The decline in drug discovery has been attributed to a variety of factors that include ballooning research and development expenses (the cost to develop a new drug is now estimated to be more than $2.5 billion), high rates of failure (a whopping 90 percent of Phase 1 candidates never make it to launch), and the complexity of human biology, which can thwart even the most promising candidates.