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Placing a Bet: A New Therapy for Parkinson's Disease
An Educational Module


Kevin W. Sharer
Senior Lecturer
Harvard Business School
Harvard University


Drug Development

This module is intended for use by business school students. It examines the decision-making process at a pharmaceutical company as its chief operating officer decides whether to invest in the development and licensing of a promising treatment for Parkinson’s disease.  The case elucidates under conditions of uncertainty the relationship between science/engineering and business opportunities so as to illustrate how an understanding of the science and engineering can reduce risk and enhance opportunity in business.

The module is structured around a drug development case that provides students with opportunities to: 1) analyze a rich and realistic description of the complex scientific and medical results associated with a promising therapeutic molecule and to consider whether the molecule warrants further investment; 2) examine the failure of clinical trials and consider why new trials utilizing a different delivery mechanism might succeed; 3) consider how a bid is structured and examine the trade-offs involved when making bid element choices; and 4) construct a best-case scenario for the further drug development 

 The module will enable business students to:

• Analyze scientific and medical results collected over time in order to recommend a future course of action
• List reasons why past drug trials failed and why a new trial might succeed
• Compare and contrast different ways in which a company might structure a bid, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each
• Prepare a best-case drug development scenario that includes information about investments, operational decisions, pricing, regulations, and marketing plans
• Describe Parkinson’s disease, including who it affects and how it affects them
• Describe GDNF (glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor) and its relationship to Parkinson’s disease
• Draw a time line for events in the history of GDNF
• Name the steps of the drug development process
• Summarize the findings of nonhuman studies of GDNF
• Summarize the findings of a randomized, double-blind trial

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