The most recent post in the LiveSciVC blog opens with the statement: “Neuroscience has quietly become a hot space for start-ups”. Does this come as a surprise? Perhaps, yes but only for those who underestimated the medical and social need and associated commercial opportunities in the fields of neurology and psychiatry.
Over the past decade, we have witnessed most major and mid-size pharma companies stopping neuroscience discovery efforts completely or significantly reorganizing and refocusing their neuroscience operations. The scale of the change in the field gave an impression that this is not an impulsive response to a series of painful failures in clinical proof-of-concept studies but rather a well-weighted and carefully thought-through decision. And this decision left many dedicated neuroscientists under the impression that the field will not recover soon.
This is why we were so pleased to see this analysis at LifeSciVC and welcome the entrepreneurial courage of those who dare to build new companies about novel therapeutic opportunities in neuroscience. In this post, Bruce Booth is asking a logical question about the origins of the increased interest in neuroscience and, as an answer, provides the following: “we’re slowly marching towards better understanding of the molecular mechanisms of neurologic diseases. This basic and applied research has created the robust scientific substrate that inspires entrepreneurs and investors to take the risk of tackling neuroscience projects.” This sounds great and may indeed be supported by a nearly 10-fold increase in NIH funding for brain research (cited in the post).
Given this second chance, we do wish to see effective medications eventually reaching the patients. However, we hope that those who invest into neuroscience (be it money, time, resource or own careers) will do so responsibly and will not forget that there are many reasons why the preclinical-to-clinical translation rate is low. Since many of the now-well-funded startups mentioned by Bruce Booth are based on early-stage scientific discoveries and only strive to generate clinical proof-of-concept, we should not forget about the need to do an extra diligence on preclinical evidence and advance those projects that are based on robust data.