5 promising preclinical programs

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Lately, there's been a lot of scrutiny surrounding preclinical research.

Last year, a former researcher at Amgen ($AMGN) found that many basic cancer studies--published in leading science journals by well-known labs--could not be replicated, casting a cloud of doubt over the preclinical research arena.

In May, a study by Shoukhrat Mitalipov published in the journal Cell reported a potential breakthrough in human stem-cell line cloning. Mere days after the study was published, an anonymous online commenter found errors in the paper. The errors were not enough for Cell editors to retract the study, though, and the journal said the mistakes did not impact the study's scientific credibility in any way. Still, the damage was enough to fuel skepticism surrounding the research.

Then, in September, Harvard biologist and science journalist John Bohannon pulled the ultimate fast one on the scientific community. Under the invented guise of "Ocorrafoo Cobange," of the made-up Wassee Institute of Medicine in Asmara, he blasted 304 peer-reviewed, open-access science journals around the globe with a fake study. The result? 157 journals accepted the bogus paper. The online science community buzzed about the prank and its implications for science research, drawing varied conclusions about the credibility of open-access journals.

Needless to say, both humans and preclinical studies have limitations--we can't spot every error, and there's only so much a mouse model can tell us. But that doesn't mean basic science research and preclinical studies are useless or even irrelevant. What it means is that we have to take new studies with a grain of salt. Scientists know that early research in peer-reviewed literature is largely speculative and exploratory. The challenge for those of us covering this research is sifting through all the releases touting new "scientific breakthroughs" and putting animal studies in context for readers.

Looking over the past year, FierceBiotech Research has put together a report on 5 promising preclinical programs. I'd like to point out that the list is subjective, and the order of its content does not represent any sort of ranking. The report is broken into 5 sections, highlighting a biopharma company or academic institution that's doing interesting work in a certain disease or disease field. This is not a definitive list by any means, and obviously, because the nature of preclinical research involves making errors and oftentimes being wrong, this report isn't intended to project how these programs might fare in the clinic.

Please feel free to share this report and reach out to let me know what you think of the selections. If there's a preclinical program you think FierceBiotech Research should cover, don't hesitate to drop me a line. -- Emily Mullin (email | Twitter)