AT our “twilight” meeting on September 16 the guest speaker was Dr Veronica (Ronnie) Englishby, the head of medical research for neuroscience and infectious diseases at Janssen Pharmaceuticals, the pharmaceutical development company of Johnson & Johnson.
Her talk concerned the birth and growth of medical research from the days of Edward Jenner, the pioneer of the smallpox vaccination in the 1790s, via the discovery of penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming in the Thirties to the present day.
She informed us that medical research had been virtually unregulated until the catastrophic events surrounding the introduction of the drug Thalidomide in 1960.
Since then an elaborate system of drug trials had been developed that could mean a 15-year process from the discovery of a drug until it comes to market.
In spite of this, there had still been a number of significant failures. Of all the compounds that had been discovered to be of therapeutic use only one in 25,000 came to market.