FDA creating innovation office to speed drug development

Scott Gottlieb FDA
FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D. (FDA)

The FDA is creating an office of drug development science to cut the cost of bringing new medicines to patients, BioCentury reports. Staff at the office will create tools that sponsors and the FDA can use to streamline the development and regulatory assessment of drugs.

FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., revealed the new office via videolink at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference. In creating the office, Gottlieb thinks the FDA can leverage improved understanding of biomarkers and other advances to build tools that take some of the risks and costs out of drug development.

“The whole reason for the cost of drug development is high is that the science of prediction is costly and uncertain,” Gottlieb told BioCentury before the official announcement. “We believe the time has come to make the science of drug development a more formal scientific discipline within the new drug approval process, along with the components that it comprises.”

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In practice, that belief will manifest in 51-person Office of Drug Evaluation Science made up of groups focused on clinical outcome assessments, biomedical informatics and safety analytics and biomarker development.

Around one-fifth of the office’s workforce will focus on creating more structured approaches to the evaluation of biomarkers, which Gottlieb thinks are ready to play a “much more formal” role in drug development and review. One strand of the biomarker unit’s activities will seek to develop standards in collaboration with drug developers, academics and other stakeholders.

Another third of the office’s 51 employees will work on biomedical informatics and safety analytics. Gottlieb said these staff will build “a standardized tool for capturing and formatting safety data” to make the agency’s reviews of safety data more structured and consistent.

If the initiative advances as hoped, it will serve as a stepping stone to a new way of managing drug application reviews. The new approach foreseen by Gottlieb will build on advances in data handling and cloud computing to give the FDA a more active role in how the information underpinning filings is presented and evaluated.

“Applications will be cloud based and instead of taking the sponsors' charts and tables and evaluating their charts and tables, we’ll be pulling down their bottom line data and formatting it through our own assessment tools and creating our own charts and tables to do the evaluation,” Gottlieb said.

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