Universities stepping up efforts to discover drugs

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

But pharmaceutical companies will still need to supplement their remaining R&D organizations by bringing in new drug candidates from outside its own walls. While many start-up companies and biotechs are already such a source, universities are also jumping into drug discovery research. I had no idea that over 80 institutions, including foreign entities like Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, are now part of theAcademic Drug Discovery Consortium (ADDC).

Perhaps the model for a drug discovery institute is Vanderbilt’s Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery (VCNDD) led by Dr. Jeff Conn. The VCNDD is made up of 100 scientists divided into four groups: Medicinal Chemistry, Molecular Pharmacology, Drug Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics, and Behavioral Pharmacology. This is an impressive commitment of resources and rivals that of many industrial neurosciences groups. Furthermore, the VCNDD has been able to attract funding from a variety of sources including the National Institutes of Mental Health, the National Institute of Drug Abuse, the Michael J. Fox Foundation, AstraZeneca, and Bristol-Myers Squibb. With its focus in the neurosciences, the VCNDD is operating in a research area that many big companies have deemphasized, if not eliminated. Thus, they are filling a void and, if any of their programs look promising in early clinical stages, the VCNDD will attract many pharma suitors.

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