Drug Development: From Lab to Shelf with Dr. Anil Antony

Drug Development: From Lab to Shelf with Dr. Anil Antony


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For all the many things that competed for the headlines in 2020, the opaque, scientific process of vaccine development often competed for top billing. This Conversation, part of a new Context series on science, is an introduction to the established process of vaccine development, and a survey of some of the scientific and administrative ways that the development of the Covid vaccine was different and unusual.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s four-step flowchart for drug and vaccine development is surprisingly simple: 1) discovery and development, 2) preclinical research, 3) clinical research, and 4) data review and approval. Although it can be summarized in relatively few and simple words, the scientific details are beyond the expertise of most, and the administrative details are opaque. What does each of these steps entail? How much of the process is serendipity, how much is basic research, and how much is focused and grinding lab work? Who pays for it, and in anticipation of what reward? Why is the process, which typically costs no less than $250 million and can rise to over $3 billion, so expensive?

The various Covid vaccines, on which the whole world has been focused, raise new questions of their own. The normal development and approval process for any drug takes many years, yet multiple vaccines are now being administered in less than a year from the start of research. And the science behind these new mRNA vaccines is different than previous vaccines, itself developed within the last decade. This Conversation will provide a survey of all of these issues that is suitable for those without a scientific background, but with the opportunity to dive into more detailed questions.

Led by Dr. Anil “Noro” Noronha Antony, an expert with a PhD in cell and developmental biology, this interactive seminar will explore the process of vaccine and medicine development. Designed to inform as well as educate, participants will emerge with a more in-depth understanding of the science behind this crucial part of medical advancement.

Dr. Anil “Noro” Noronha Antony is an assistant director of the American Association for Cancer Research, the world’s oldest and largest private cancer research organization. He holds a PhD in Cell and Developmental biology and a lifelong interest in the history and culture of south India. Born in the Muslim-majority United Arab Emirates to an Anglo-Indian Catholic family and trained by a Hindu tantric in Kerala, he has direct experience of all three major Keralite religious traditions.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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