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Why the Drug You’ll Need to Save Your Life in 15 Years Won’t be There

By: , Posted on: December 21, 2016

An important new book release from Elsevier Academic Press.

preserving the promise

Philadelphia, PA – December 5, 2016

The development process for new medicines fails at a staggering rate, placing our collective health in jeopardy.  It’s estimated that barely 0.1 percent of new compounds even make it to a new drug application and FDA review.

Preserving the Promise: Improving the Culture of Biotech Investment reveals why that’s so, and what we can do to recover the industry’s promise of longer and healthier lives.  The authors, experts in drug discovery and development, critically examine why so many biomedical research discoveries will never help patients.

“Most biopharmaceutical startups fail not because of the technology, but because they can’t survive a capricious and unwieldy funding environment.”

The system that should get these discoveries from the laboratory to your doctor’s prescription pad is broken…so much so that it’s been described as the Valley of Death.  Dysfunctional processes kill important medicines, fund junk science, and cause the universities that spawn innovation and the investors that support its earliest stages to lose money.

Why does this matter? 

No one’s going to die of a double chin, but you’ve probably seen the television ads for its miraculous new cure.  Meanwhile, two million Americans will contract antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections this year, and 23,000 of those will die because new antibiotics don’t offer the most attractive investment returns.  There hasn’t been an entirely new class of antibiotics approved in decades.

Almost half of new drug approvals by the Food and Drug Administration last year were for orphan compounds, developed to treat rare diseases affecting thousands not millions, because that’s where the money is.  Decisions are made based on short-term return, so that even cures for diseases afflicting large groups of patients become a problem.  That new drug for hepatitis C you see advertised every night on TV?  It costs $94,000.

In Preserving the Promise, Scott Fishman (investor) and Scott Dessain (biotech entrepreneur), take the first hard look at the dysfunction that afflicts drug development. They examine the process of biopharmaceutical discovery, technology transfer, seed stage investing, pharmaceutical business development – and advance specific recommendations for making this all work better.

“It doesn’t have to be this way. There are better ways to make decisions, to align interests, and to find common cause in the mutually compelling goals of making people better and making lots of money.”

This is a different kind of book. The focus is the intersection of science, medicine, and finance, and how that nexus, not its individual components, determines healthcare innovation. The reasons investors put their money behind high-risk propositions like biotechnology transcend simple calculations of return on investment. Solving the mysteries of why our bodies malfunction is, to put it simply, a worthwhile thing to do.

The authors deconstruct the early stage biotech development ecosystem, exploring why so many good technologies can’t get the support they need.  They propose solutions to such vexing questions as:

  • Why biotech entrepreneurs have to spend their time chasing funding instead of on scientific development
  • Why most universities lose money on biotech licensing, and behave in ways that inhibit even revolutionary technologies
  • How ingrained funding practices doom so many startup companies
  • Why from one year to the next, biotech may transform from the belle du jour to the investment no one wants
  • Why a toxic mix of macroeconomics and investor caprice determines whether you and I will be able to survive future bacterial infections or cancer
  • Why throwing enough stuff at the wall and hoping some of it will stick isn’t the best route to better health

There’s considerable room to improve a system that has for too long been taken at face value because that’s the way it has always operated. Preserving the Promise looks under the hood of healthcare innovation, takes a good look around, and points the way to a better alternative.

More information


Authors:        &

Twitter:                  @envisage_bio & @ScottDessain

About the Authors

Scott Fishman has more than three decades’ experience as a strategic advisor to the medical technology and pharmaceutical industries and d an angel investor. As the founder and CEO of Research by Design (RBD), one of the foremost names in the medical information industry, he has counseled virtually every major biopharmaceutical company. He is currently President and CEO of Ethos LifeScience Advisors and Envisage, consultancies that provide market analysis and commercial guidance for healthcare entrepreneurs and product developers.  Fishman sits on the Life Sciences screening committee for Robin Hood Ventures and the Life Science Investment Review committee for Ben Franklin Technology Partners.  He co-created and served as program executive for the Commercialization Acceleration Program  at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, which supports the development and funding of technology-based start-up companies.  He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and completed his graduate work at The University of Texas at Austin.

Dr. Scott Dessain is the scientific co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Immunome, Inc., a cancer immunotherapy company. He is also an oncologist and immunology researcher at the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research (LIMR) in Pennsylvania. He earned an undergraduate degree in biochemistry at Brown University and then M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Yale University. He received post-graduate medical education at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana Farber/Partners Cancer Care (both in Boston), and at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, MA.

The authors are in-demand speakers, having presented on biotechnology innovation at Harvard’s i-Lab, the Yale School of Management, the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Wharton School, Princeton’s eLab, the National Science Foundation annual SBIR meeting, and conferences on immunology and biotech development in the US and Europe.

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Biomedicine & Biochemistry

The disciplines of biomedicine and biochemistry impact the lives of millions of people every day. Research in these areas has led to practical applications in cardiology, cancer treatment, respiratory medicine, drug development, and more. Interdisciplinary fields of study, including neuroscience, chemical engineering, nanotechnology, and psychology come together in this research to yield significant new discoveries. Elsevier’s biomedicine and biochemistry content spans a wide range of subject matter in various forms, including journals, books, eBooks, and online information services, enabling students, researchers, and clinicians to advance these fields. Learn more about our Biomedical and Biochemistry books here.