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Speeding Up the Discovery of Drugs

An entrepreneur with MS pushes a new research model
One out of every 5,000 to 10,000 potential treatments discovered in the lab makes it to market
One out of every 5,000 to 10,000 potential treatments discovered in the lab makes it to marketIllustration by 731; Pills: Dwight Eschliman/Getty Images

When Scott Johnson read an article about a potential breakthrough that restored nerve function in mice with multiple sclerosis, he assumed it would soon be turned into a treatment. That was in 2001. Johnson, who was diagnosed with MS at age 20 in 1976, is still waiting.

A Silicon Valley entrepreneur who has led startups in areas as diverse as food processing and simulated helicopter flights, Johnson founded the Myelin Repair Foundation in 2002 with the goal of halving the time it takes to develop new MS treatments. Now he’s part of a growing movement to fix the messy, uncoordinated way new medicines are created. “I realized that it was literally a totally dysfunctional system,” says Johnson. “It’s not surprising no drugs come out.”