BASIC SCIENCE TO BLOCKBUSTER DRUG: INVENTION OF PREGABALIN (LYRICA®)
This article is based on a short presentation, given at the fourth annual meeting of the National Academy of Inventors in March, 2015, in which I discuss the scientific basis leading to the invention of pregabalin (Lyrica®) and the design elements of the series of molecules that included the one that became Lyrica®. The unexpected observation that this class of molecules activated the enzyme L-glutamate decarboxylase led to the excitement of a potential first-in-class drug to treat epilepsy. I then discuss the arduous process of attaining an industrial partner, intellectual property coverage, agreements between the company and Northwestern University, and the road to commercialization. Once the drug was on the market, I began to receive e-mails of gratitude from patients using Lyrica®, and I give anonymous quotes from some of these testimonials. Because this commercialization process was new to Northwestern University, there were some oversights in the language of the license agreement, resulting in unpleasant experiences with the industrial partner. I note lessons learned from this process and the importance of academic invention.
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