In this recent discussion of the significant problems facing drug discovery, Daniel Cressey suggests that one of the biggest problems with private enterprise doing drug discovery is that they regularly chase the same targets in parallel and do not know that others have already discarded them after testing. The expectation is that we will probably see “an implosion of the old model” of discovery.
The first solution is to create a 50-50 between big pharma and universities, or to create a public consortium (in the sense of publicly-shared information), which only becomes private at a certain stage along the pathway of discovery. In my opinion, neither of these are feasible.
What I do think is feasible is based on another industry I know relatively well, and one that has evolved well beyond the stage of oligopoly to become a vibrant ecosystem where profit is only one of several incentives for the production of knowledge.