By Karl Ulrich, Wharton Vice Dean of Entrepreneurship & Innovation —
Imagine: animal testing that is as good for animals as it is for humans.
Most of us know that medical animal testing goes on, and we accept it as the bleak price we pay for the medical miracles that will hopefully save our parents, our children, ourselves, when a terrible disease takes hold. We know—or we should—that part of the process of testing drugs or therapies for human use involves making healthy animals sick, in order to test new treatments.
But what if there was another, better way?
Ben Lewis, WG’16, Wharton and Penn Vet alum and founder of The One Health Company, has found that better way.
Here’s his elevator pitch: “The One Health Company is changing the way that animal testing is done. We’re totally turning it on its head, from something that hurts animals to something that actually benefits animals. Rather than taking animals in the laboratory that are otherwise healthy, giving them a disease, and then testing on them, what we do is we work with pet parents whose dogs and cats are naturally sick, and we pair them into pharmaceutical trials in an effort to try to make them better. The best part is, we actually pay for everything, and these pets are being seen by the world’s best veterinarians. And it turns out that this data ends up saving pharma a tremendous amount of money on the back end.” Listen to Ben give his elevator pitch.
Not only does The One Health Company offer more ethical animal testing, and give “pet parents” the chance to enroll their sick animals in clinical trials with cutting edge treatments—but the data from these tests is significantly better.
According to Ben, “The problem with the status quo of animal testing is that 92% of drugs that actually work in traditional animal models end up failing in people in late clinical stages. And that’s why the average cost of developing new drugs is about $2.6 billion. The primary reason for this 92% failure rate is actually just crappy animal models. It is really difficult to essentially make an animal sick that is otherwise healthy.”
With The One Health Company model, Ben explains, “what is really cool is we can bring that number down from like 92% into the mid-thirties, which is a tremendous, tremendous change from the status quo of the industry.”
And that $2.6 billion price tag for new drugs? “The NIH published a paper demonstrating that comparative trials, the ones that we run, save an average of $117 million per drug.”
The idea for The One Health Company came when Ben enrolled his own dog in a clinical trial. His dog had osteosarcoma, and was given a survival time of about three months. After participating in an immunotherapy trial, he lived three and a half years. Ben was intrigued by the model of using sick pets for clinical trials. He learned that it took the trial three years to find thirteen dogs to participate—basically the logistics were a nightmare. Pharmaceutical companies told Ben that they wished there were a company to organize pets for trials like this.
Here’s my takeaway: pay attention to the pain points —the places where people wish there was a better solution than what they’ve got now.
Pharmaceutical companies want better subjects for clinical trials, and to save money. Pet owners want the best possible care for their sick animals. Pretty much everyone prefers more humane animal testing. Ben and The One Health Company found a way to create a three-way win. That’s something any entrepreneur can be proud of.
Posted: February 2, 2018