Deprioritised pharma compounds offered to researchers

A collection of 68 deprioritised pharmaceutical compounds is being made available to academic researchers through a partnership between the UK’s Medical Research Council (MRC) and seven global drug companies.

From today, UK scientists can apply for MRC funding to use any of the compounds in medical research to investigate the underlying mechanics of disease, which may lead to the development of more effective treatments for a range of conditions.

Both clinical and preclinical compounds feature, including molecules developed initially for a wide range of diseases including cancer, ADHD, narcolepsy and diabetes. At least 24 are known to cross into the brain, which might make them particularly interesting for neurological studies.

As part of the partnership, which was first announced by Business Secretary Vince Cable in July, AstraZeneca (AZ) is supplying 30 compounds, GlaxoSmithKline, five, Janssen, Lilly and Takeda, four each, Pfizer, 11, and UCB, 10.

The compounds have all undergone some degree of industry development, but have stalled in early testing – often because they were not sufficiently effective against the disease in question.

Academic researchers can now use them to study other diseases in the hope that they may identify new ways of interrupting the disease process and result in new medicines.

As many of the compounds are suitable for human tests, any new treatments arising from the research could reach patients much faster. In fact, a project funded through a similar compound-sharing partnership between the MRC and AZ has already reached human trials. It is investigating a drug originally designed to treat gastro-oesophageal reflux disease for the treatment of chronic cough.

Prof Sir John Savill, MRC chief executive, said: “The sheer size and scope of the asset pool being offered up by our industry partners is unprecedented and will be highly attractive to academic researchers. Our previous collaboration with AstraZeneca attracted a huge amount of interest and saw the MRC fund 15 projects utilising their 22 compounds … There is real potential here to make a huge dent in some of the most debilitating diseases, for which treatments have remained elusive.”

Dr Neil Weir, chair of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry’s (ABPI) Innovation Board added: “The ABPI and its members are delighted to be leading the way worldwide with the MRC and initiatives such as this. Our commitment to greater collaboration with UK researchers and the academic community will improve understanding of diseases so that we can continue to develop life-changing medicines for the benefit of patients.”

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Pharma companies offer up compounds to UK researchers

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