Many medical startups have earned billions on promises to create new methods of treating and preventing diseases. However, most are not ready to confirm their statements with the help of scientific articles. So in the future, the industry will face new revelations and scandals.
Theranos company promised its customers the diagnosis of many diseases based on a simple finger blood test. However, then it turned out that the technique does not work. This led the company to collapse, and its head to the dock. A team of researchers from Stanford and New York universities, which includes the famous scientist John Ioannidis, argues that many startups can repeat the fate of Theranos.
Ioannidis and his colleagues chose 48 medical and biotech “unicorns” – startups whose value is estimated to be above $1 billion and then analyzed the scientific articles they published.
It turned out that a quarter of the companies did not even try to confirm their promises with the help of peer-reviewed publications. Another half published articles that were hardly cited.
Although such startups claim to rely on science, in fact, they often use questionable internal research and excitement in the media, notes Business Insider.
Ioannidis says he would like to consider Theranos the only “rotten apple.” But the research results speak about the crisis of the whole industry.
He calls on several large companies that barely publish evidence of their concepts.
These include Intarcia Therapeutics, which is developing implants for diabetes and HIV prevention. The startup was founded about 20 years ago and during this time published only six peer-reviewed articles, none of which attracted the attention of the scientific community. However, today the company is already worth $4 billion.
Founded in 2010, Moderna Therapeutics earned $5 billion on promises to create an RNA therapy for cancer and infectious diseases, but published only one significant work. Another 16 publications went unnoticed due to the weak significance of the findings.
In addition to biotech companies developing revolutionary drugs and methods of treatment, scientists have included financial startups working in the field of healthcare in their analysis. Many argue that they save time and money for patients, but are not able to confirm this with research. The most famous of them is the insurance company Oscar Health.
According to Ioannidis, as the market for biotech startups grows, the share of companies that do not publish articles in peer-reviewed journals increases. This is a dangerous trend, because the life and health of patients depend on their activities.
The study is not the first wake-up call for the overheated biotechnology market. Earlier it was reported that startups working in this area could generate a new financial bubble.