Hajdúch: ‘You must be prepared for defeats when developing pharmaceuticals’

Marián Hajdúch, the director of the Institute of Molecular and Translational Medicine (IMTM), the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry UP, was the third to speak as part of the Contemporary Chemistry lecture series held at the Faculty of Science. He talked about both success and defeats, and all the lessons learnt. According to him, scientists in this area have to overcome different hurdles not only while doing their research in laboratories but also when facing wrong decisions made by managements of pharmaceutical companies or tough legislation.

The molecular oncologist introduced the work of scientists at IMTM through a couple of stories. They, for example, ended in developing new drugs, which are used in clinical practice; clinical trials, a cosmetic product, or being resultless. What really caught the audience’s attention was talking about the journey to a new drug, which could take up to 15 years and requires massive investment.

“It’s essential to do good science. Otherwise, you won’t get the proper credit to be able to convince a potential investor—a pharmaceutical company—to take interest in your research results. You must also draw up a clear scheme for further development of the particular drug, which involves having a strong team of experienced people devoted to their research. In this area, you must be prepared for defeats. Keeping a positive attitude is essential to being strong enough to overcome hurdles, which can pile up. But losing makes you stronger and even more focused, which leads to winning the whole battle. You must be entirely confident in your abilities,” said Hajdúch, talking about the preconditions for success. He and his colleagues contributed to the success achieved in treating cystic fibroses or they managed to confirm anticancer activity of Disulfiram, this being known under the trade name Antabuse, which is a drug to support treatment of alcoholism.

Preclinical testing could take up to seven years to make sure that the target product does not pose any risk to patients and is fully effective.  Results that seem promising may not always lead to the anticipated outcomes. “We have abundant drugs to treat mouse models of cancer, but very few to treat humans. Success is determined by doing excellent research being closely tight with clinical medicine,” he emphasized. An appropriate form of protecting intellectual property along with being cautious when dealing with pharmaceutical companies is crucial. These companies are vital to successfully developing new drugs.

Despite the extensive experience that pharmaceutical companies have in this area, it is still necessary to do research at universities as well. These workplaces are not as dependent on commercial success as private businesses. Researchers from academia can devote themselves to areas that won’t be attractive for commercial sector. Research into new types of drugs, drugs treating rare diseases, or drugs for diseases typical for developing countries in which pharmaceuticals are unaffordable could serve as an example. “We have an advantage over pharmaceuticals industry; we have patients, access to their biological materials, and young researchers and students who produce new ideas,” added Hajdúch. Picking up on this, he invited the students in the lecture theatre for collaboration.

This lecture has been praised by not only the audience but also the supervisor of the whole cycle Pavel Hobza. “I never forget to ask students what they appreciated the most in the past year. One thing has always been agreed on—the issue of developing pharmaceuticals. Mr Hajdúch’s lecture lived up to their expectations. I felt how the audience got engaged in the lecture; they dropped their jaw a couple of times,” said the most cited Czech scientist.


Lecture video (in Czech)