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Surprising Science

Francois Nader and the Future of Pharmaceutical Science

The chief executive officer and president of NPS Pharmaceuticals walks us through the health innovations we can expect in the coming decades.

When you’re curious about imminent and future advances in health and medicine, it’s useful to have someone like Francois Nader around to ask. In today’s featured Big Think interview, the CEO and president of NPS Pharmaceuticals speaks to the excitement of exploring the next frontier of human health while also predicting in which realms major advancements are most likely to be made.

Nader begins with an examination of the pharmaceutical industry’s broad scope of research, which strives to innovate solutions to relatively small afflictions like the common cold to major diseases such as Alzheimer’s and diabetes. He then casts his gaze ahead and predicts the future of pharmaceutical research:

“One, we have phenomenal tools that will enable us to diagnose and to be more specific in better understanding the mechanism of virtually any disease. And the second aspect would be based on that we can start now, charter the road to better understanding the brain, which will be a huge advancement.”

If fighting disease can be equated to warfare, the brain is certainly its most vital theater. It’s important to remember that, despite all these years carrying them around in our craniums, we still don’t know much about how the brain works. If knowing is half the battle, there’s still a lot of fighting to be done.

As for the biggest challenges moving forward, Nader seems assured that science will hold up its end of the bargain. It’s policy and regulation that he fears will bog things down:

“Money and investment is one thing, but we need to continue working on the framework of the regulatory agencies and how we can partner with the regulators to have a clearer path forward to having the new drugs approved.

The biggest challenge we face is science is moving so fast that the regulators have to catch up. They have to catch up to understand and catch up even more to regulate us, which is a very daunting challenge and I really believe that the regulators are doing the right things in most of the cases. But at the same time, I can only see the challenges that they have to better understand how the science is progressing.”

If all turns out well though, Nader expects the spoils from this war against disease to be bountiful. He calls the progress made in the past 15 years “flabbergasting.” Imagine how much is possible between now and 2030.


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