Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitors have revolutionized the care of vasoproliferative ophthalmologic disease and their history can provide insights into transformative drug development. Experts involved in the basic science through clinical development of VEGF inhibitors were interviewed and interviews were analyzed to synthesize key themes. Extensive basic science investigations by a multidisciplinary network of scientists and clinicians, most affiliated with Harvard Medical School, over the course of decades enabled a deep understanding of VEGF. Crucial to this process were scientific champions who fostered academic collaboration. The case of VEGF inhibitors supports the growing evidence that robust basic science and academic collaboration drive transformative drug development, whereas competitive forces in the marketplace drive subsequent private investment.
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