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Future of ophthalmic innovation is through R&D partnerships


Ophthalmology has benefitted from many innovative new therapies in recent years. How do we continue to drive innovation? And how can we, as an industry, accelerate bringing new therapies to the marketplace?


Editor’s Note: A lot of information has surfaced over the past several months in Valeant Pharmaceuticals’ $53 billion bid for Allergan. Though the war of words between the two companies has been thoroughly outlined and covered in the financial media, there is one argument that is the most significant to physicians-most importantly, ophthalmologists-and it’s research and development (R&D).

Both companies have different approaches to R&D. Scott M. Whitcup, MD, executive vice president of R&D for Allergan, and Calvin Roberts, MD, chief medical officer of Bausch + Lomb, outline their respective company’s position in developing and bringing new products to market. Valeant acquired B+L in 2013.

This forum was made available to both companies so readers would have a better understanding of the R&D issue and where each company stands in the ophthalmic market and what it means to physicians.


Dr. RobertsOphthalmology has benefitted from many innovative new therapies in recent years. How do we continue to drive innovation? And how can we, as an industry, accelerate bringing new therapies to the marketplace?

At Bausch + Lomb and Valeant, we believe the greatest innovation occurs in the research laboratories at universities and at start-up companies, where brilliant scientists can follow their passion. It is then the role of industry to develop these ideas into commercial products, take them through the regulatory process and bring them to clinicians for the benefit of patients.

Great innovations are occurring today in ophthalmology in retina, glaucoma, cataract, uveitis, and myopia, among others, and no big pharma company could have fully capable research facilities and capabilities in every area.


Creating partnerships

Rather, the future of ophthalmic clinical development is to take a newer, more nimble approach to research and development (R&D), where the big industry companies create partnership with universities and start-ups. The innovation cycle requires that there be readily accessible avenues for great new ideas to mature into treatments accessible to patients, and in the future, it will be industry’s role to expedite the passage from laboratory to clinic.

The future can be seen by just looking at the pharmaceutical market today. Of the 50 top drugs in medicine, only four originated in-house by big pharma. All the others were developed through licensing and acquisition.

READ MORE: Allergan's view

The same is true at Bausch + Lomb. Over the past 2 years, we launched bromfenac ophthalmic solution 0.07% (Prolensa); loteprednol etabonate ophthalmic gel 0.5% (Lotemax Gel); two IOL products (Vista IOL and Trulign Toric IOL); a new eye vitamin and mineral supplement (PreserVision AREDS 2 Formula), and a femtosecond laser platform (Victus)-all of which are based on products originally licensed or acquired, and which Bausch + Lomb added development and regulatory expertise before commercializing.

Universities and small companies rely on external funding from grants and venture capital to provide the money to germinate their ideas. When venture capitalists consider making an investment in a new technology, a primary determinant is often whether there will eventually be commercial partners to take the idea to fruition. The more that these early sources of funding know that big companies are eager to be commercial partners, the more willing they will be to invest. The greater the investment in early research by venture capitalists, the more ideas will be developed.


Thus, to accelerate the cycle of innovation, it is more desirable for large pharmaceutical and device companies such as Bausch + Lomb and Valeant to be receivers of university and start-up ideas than to originate them ourselves. For, it is not what a company spends on research that matters to doctors and patients. Rather, it is only the output of that company’s R&D efforts that matter.

We, at Bausch + Lomb and Valeant, are dedicated to being the leader in bringing new innovative products to the market, and our track record of new products for ophthalmology confirms the success of our strategy and R&D philosophy.

Calvin Roberts, MD, is chief medical officer, Bausch + Lomb. The products mentioned are trademarks or copyrights of Bausch + Lomb Inc. or its affiliates. For more information, visit www.bausch.com and www.valeant.com.


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