Pharmaceutical Sciences for the future
Pharmaceutical sciences are changing so dramatically that a strong leadership is required to steer pharmacy education through this transitional phase, along with a dynamic curriculum, opines Dr. B. Suresh, Pro Chancellor, JSS Academy of Higher Education and Research & President, Pharmacy Council of India
There has been a sea change in the pharma sector’s approach to drug discovery and development. However, pharmacy education still maintains a traditional approach to its curriculum and education. It is important to understand the research trends in the pharmaceutical industry to determine whether India’s postgraduate and doctoral programmes are strategically positioned to prepare graduates for successful careers in the next few decades. The undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in pharmaceutical sciences should prepare and equip the graduates in meeting the needs of the employers, imbibing a culture of innovation and collaboration, that our industry needs to be successful and relevant in this century.
Biologics has been the fastest growing class of new drugs and accounts for 33% of all new drug applications (NDAs). Pharma sector has been continuously pursuing an approach to feed their pipeline, and even modifying the large corporations into smaller, more flexible, mobile divisions in the spirit of the startup phenomena to increase competitiveness and creativity. Recently, an approval pathway for biosimilars has become available which will further fuel the growth of biological drug approval, resulting in a growing need for appropriately trained graduates. Personalized medicine is also accounting for a growing number of drugs in the pipeline, estimated between 12-50%.
Predictive methods are a growing research approach called comparative effectiveness research.
Comparative effectiveness research (CER) uses retrospective studies of large populations to make predictions about drug use. Multiscale systems models, such as those that might include biology/physiology/pharmacology/pathophysiology elements, concurrently are also more commonly used to predict clinical success with experimental data.
The growing inefficiency and cost of research and development has spawned research in other predictive sciences, such as quantitative risk analysis and risk management. In summary, many of these emerging research areas have been designed to improve prediction of drug safety, clinical efficacy or cost-effectiveness at lower cost and more efficiently. Predictive sciences, including database management, biostatistics, programming and modeling, are likely to become increasingly important components of drug discovery and development as a means to offset rising costs and lengthy studies.
A curriculum that can fuel the above trends and produce UG, PG and Doctoral level graduates who are equipped to understand and pursue careers and research in these emerging areas, is essential. As mentioned above, emerging and growing scientific areas in the pharmaceutical sciences such as modelling and simulation sciences, biologics, clinical and translational science and nanotechnologies should become more widely available for both basic and advanced training throughout their education. Soft skills should also become available to students along the foundational courses.
The pharmacy faculty should also be developed and supported to lead and contribute significantly to fields such as cell and systems biology, genomics, proteomics and nanotechnology. Teaching and learning processes and programs must apply innovation and technology to enable both educational quality and efficiency simultaneously.
The traditional silo and classroom approaches to education that are hindering our ability to be efficient and responsive to the needs of our profession should give way to shared workshops, courses and webinars offered through or by professional organisations, statutory bodies or collaboratively between a network of schools to avoid repeatedly having to develop and teach programmes to a small number of students. Collaborative models need to be designed where some subjects are outsourced to other institutions, and/or certain faculty are shared between institutions.
Aligning with regulations
As the future of the pharmaceutical sciences is changing and has changed so dramatically in recent years, strong leadership is required to steer pharmacy education through this period of transition. Taking into account the future trends in the pharmaceutical industry and the profession, the Pharmacy Council of India (PCI) has brought out five new regulations that envisage bringing about a paradigm shift in pharmaceutical sciences education, training and research.
These regulations will not only provide the much needed direction, growth and leadership for new curriculum identification, creation, sharing and offering, but also nurture these initiatives through survey research, creation of partnerships with stakeholders, creation of faculty and institutional development for the transition, best practices for intellectual property generated by these innovative collaborations and assistance with the cultural change that will be needed to realize these changes, not only in the educational programs but the colleges themselves.
The undergraduate and postgraduate programmes should prepare and equip the graduates in meeting the needs of the employers, imbibing a culture of innovation and collaboration, that our industry needs to be successful and relevant in this century
Emerging and growing scientific areas in the pharmaceutical sciences such as modelling and simulation sciences should become more widely available for both basic and advanced training