For the third consecutive year, Apple tops the list of most innovative companies.
More Money Helps But Will It Yield Answers?
Knowing that you're chasing the right problems -- that your money is going toward finding the right answers -- is the biggest problem facing scientists and foundations pursuing cures for diseases, explained Debi Brooks, executive vice chairman of the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which fights Parkinson's Disease.
Above all, people need to participate in ongoing research, agreed panelists at The Atlantic Meets the Pacific forum in La Jolla, CA on Tuesday, which is exploring emerging technologies and the way people use them.
"What's missing in the U.S. is innovation around the process -- how do we spend the money in the smartest way possible?" Brooks asked. "We spend $35 billion a year on research and we should have something to show for it."
Greg Lucier, CEO of Life Technologies, said that drug approvals needed to be speeded up.
"Our society has chosen safety over speed," he said. "The FDA has chosen to be the slowest drug approving agency in the world."
But money isn't always being spent on developing the right drugs either.
"What we're missing is the ability to develop new and innovative drugs -- we look at what we have on the shelf and use that," said Santosh Kesari, chief of the Division of Neuro-Oncology at the UC San Diego School of Medicine. "We are looking at repurposing drugs and combinations of drugs, which is good."
Lucier said the pharma industry's habit of developing a number of similar drugs for a single illness is wasteful. And since there isn't enough data about living with the disease, many Parkinson's patients don't even make it to the right doctor -- one who is trained in the cutting edge research of the disease.
"Every patient should be a research patient," Lucier said. "Electronic medical records and imaging will help us get there."
"There's something about innovation, we are willing to fund it," Brooks said. "For our philanthropic dollars, we could do it ... A purposeful private foundation can approach research differently than the government or a publicly held company."
As for her Foundation, it helps to have Michael J. Fox as the head, she noted, adding, "If this was the Debi Brooks Parkinson's Foundation, things wouldn't be going nearly as well."