I think the expectation comes from the fact that we've basically cured many diseases that were low-hanging fruits [...] And it might or might not be worth the money; perhaps we could cure 100 smaller diseases for that price.It turns out that focus on low-hanging fruit is also an issue within the cancer research community. The Independent reports that in spite of record levels of funding for cancer research in the UK many "unfashionable" cancers are being neglected:
Some of the deadliest cancers, such as those affecting the lung and pancreas, get the least amount of public money, while five cancers with some of the best survival rates, including breast and leukaemia, receive nearly two-thirds of the money.This seems counterintuitive. One would think that cancers such as lung cancer - which remains the leading cause of cancer death for both men and women - would receive a higher percentage of funding dollars. But that isn't the case. This is attributed to the fact that current research focuses on areas where major discoveries are more likely or the disease is easier to study, and this is partly due to the fact that future grants can depend on past success so reaching for those higher fruits can be risky career-wise. Is this a problem? Should focus shift from areas with diminishing returns to those where there's still a lot of ground to be covered? Or should we finish off the 'low hanging fruit' before climbing the ladder? And if the former, how do we accomplish it?