To understand how research is divided overall, consider it as three branches: basic, translational, and clinical. Basic is research at the molecular level to understand how things work; translational research takes basic findings and tries to find applications for those findings in a clinical setting; and clinical research takes the translational findings and produces procedures, drugs, and equipment for use by and on patients.
Pharma operates under a great deal of pressure these days, and not just from the political side — everyone wants to avoid being left holding the next Vioxx. But as a matter of focus, their only area of interest is that last category: clinical research. What’s more, they’re only really interested in clinical research into areas that hold the promise of recouping the cost of their investment, and more. They are a business, and they perform as one.
So Pharma is interested in making money as their primary goal — that should surprise no one. But they’re also interested in avoiding litigation. Suppose for a moment that Pharma produces a drug to treat one non-life threatening condition, and it’s a monetary success, earning profits measured in billions of dollars. But then one of their researchers discovers it might have other applications, including life-saving ones. Instead of starting on research, Pharma will stand pat. Why? Because it doesn’t make any business sense to go through an entire FDA approval process and a round of clinical trials all over again, and at the end of the day, they could just be needlessly jeopardizing the success of a multi-billion dollar drug. It makes business sense to just stand with what works perfectly fine for the larger population, not try to cure a more focused and more deadly condition. --How Medical Breakthroughs Happen