U.K. researchers will be granted access to a ‘virtual library’ of deprioritized pharmaceutical compounds through a new partnership between the Medical Research Council (MRC) and seven global drug companies.
AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen R&D, Lilly, Pfizer, Takeda and UCB each will offer a number of their deprioritized molecules for use in new studies to improve understanding of a range of diseases, with a view to developing more effective treatments.
The compounds have undergone some degree of industry development, but all have stalled at some point in early testing—many because they were not sufficiently effective against the disease in question. However, they may be useful against other diseases with shared biological pathways.
These compounds are incredibly valuable to academic researchers, who can use them to understand how a disease takes hold in the body and how it might be stopped or slowed down. It is hoped that re-purposing such compounds could lead to the development of new medicines for many debilitating conditions. And because the compounds already have undergone some preliminary development, such as safety testing, any new treatments arising from the research could reach patients much more quickly.
Projects funded through a previous compound sharing initiative between the MRC and AstraZeneca already are demonstrating success in this area, with the first human trials of a new treatment for chronic cough getting underway.
“Our ground-breaking compound collaboration with AstraZeneca attracted a huge amount interest from the academic community,” and saw the MRC award $12 million for research into Alzheimer’s, cancer and rare diseases, said Professor Sir John Savill, chief executive of the MRC. “We’re now building on this success by expanding into a rolling program with seven companies that will allow the academic community to access even more assets for use in innovative research projects. By funding studies using these compounds, which otherwise would not be carried out, we will enable scientific breakthroughs that will improve the health of patients in the U.K. and worldwide.”
A full list of available compounds will be published later this year, when U.K. scientists will be able to apply for MRC funding to use them in academic research projects. There is no fixed budget for the program, which will make the compounds available on a continuous basis via the MRC’s normal response-mode funding mechanism. It is hoped more companies, and more compounds, will be added as it progresses.
“This partnership between the MRC and seven pharmaceutical companies is a fantastic example of open innovation that benefits both industry and academia by opening up new interesting avenues for research that may not otherwise be available,” said Stephen Whitehead, chief executive of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI). “The ABPI and our members are committed to greater collaboration with U.K. researchers and the whole of the academic community to improve our understanding of diseases so that we can continue to develop life-changing medicines for the benefit of patients.”
Research proposals will be submitted to the MRC, which will independently judge the scientific quality of the applications and award funding accordingly. The rights to intellectual property (IP) generated using the compounds will vary from project to project, but will be equitable and similar to those currently used in academically-led research.