I’m still ruminating over last week’s Nobel prize announcements. Although the general public is aware of the Nobel prizes, I’m not sure how well the scientific community is explaining the research awarded therein. To be fair, it’s difficult to convey the significance of an extensive, sometimes tedious, body of research in terms that anyone can understand. And it’s even more difficult to do so when the discovery doesn’t seem to have a practical, real-world significance.
One example of this: the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded to two researchers who laid much of the groundwork for RNA interference, RNAi. While academic groups and handful of biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies were using RNAi as a research tool at the time, RNAi still faced a number of hurdles as a viable therapeutic. Ten years after the Nobel for RNAi was awarded, the article When a Nobel Prize brings a shower of hype: the roller coaster ride of RNAi took a look back at the progress and missteps in turning this Nobel-award winning discovery into an actual therapeutic. Finally, 11 years after the Nobel prize: positive Phase III results, Alnylam has a drug with the startling power to mute defective genes. Alnylam and the other biotech and pharma companies had been trying to make RNAi “druggable” for far longer than the 11 years since the Nobel prize was awarded in 2006.
Drug discovery is hard, you guys.