It takes an average over 12 years to bring a promising compound from the research laboratory to the doctor’s surgery. Discovery and development costs for a new medicines are typically about £1.15 billion. For every marketed medicine, on average 5,000 - 10,000 chemical compounds will have been made; 10 - 20 of these will have undergone pre-clinical testing; 5 - 10 will have gone into clinical trials and only one will have proved to be sufficiently safe and effective to become a marketed medicine.
Combinatorial chemistry and high-throughout screening that allow many thousands of compounds to be tested in a relatively short time, have been used to try to find potential new medicines, but results have been disappointing and finding a molecule with the right therapeutic and safety profile is still a long and difficult task.
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I am on a rotation scheme that my company runs for graduates, which involves moving from one therapeutic area to another over a course of 2 years.