4. May 2012 15:33
Three leading pharmaceutical companies are working with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) to find new indications for failed drugs.
Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Eli Lilly have joined a research programme that aims to speed innovative drug development by using existing compounds.
The programme will seek to match these compounds to newly discovered genetic disease pathways to identify accidentally pre-targeted drugs.
NIH Director Dr Francis Collins pointed to a familiar example: the first effective HIV treatment, AZT, was an unsuccessful cancer drug.
Such discoveries, he said, have been “sort of serendipitous” – but the goal of the new research programme is to replace serendipity with systematic analysis.
Recent research has identified the genetic causes of 4,500 diseases, but so far targeted treatments have only been developed for 250 of these.
The three drug companies have agreed to each make available at least 24 ‘failed’ drugs (withdrawn or never launched) that passed safety tests, making their testing in new indications relatively easy.
Scientists will apply for NIH grants to study specific drugs.
To simplify the legal framework, the programme allows the companies to retain ownership of their drugs while the researchers can patent their own discoveries.
The NIH will invest about $20m in the programme in its first year, and hopes for support from more pharmaceutical companies in the future.