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NCATS: Making Old and Abandoned Drugs A Starting Point for New Therapies

By March 10, 2013

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Tripod chemical genomics browser
Screenshot of NCATS/NIH chemical genomics browser

Part of the NIH's recent re-organization resulted in the creation of NCATS -- the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. A significant focus at NCATS is drug rescue and re-purposing as part of the overall mission to (more speedily) translate research findings into new medicines.

NCATS is working in close collaboration with industry to identify new therapies from existing compounds. NCATS Pharmaceutical Collection (also called the NIH Chemical Genomics Center) is a collection of thousands of approved and investigational drugs available publicly for validating new disease models and improving the understanding of the molecular basis of disease pathology and intervention. Industry has contributed many agents to the NCATS effort. According to the agency:

"These compounds and biologics have undergone significant pre-clinical and Phase I testing and are ready for additional testing in humans. Making information about these promising agents available to the research community gives scientists an opportunity to explore potential new therapeutic uses in previously unexplored disease areas."

Eli Lilly is contributing its Phenotypic Drug Discovery (PD2) assay panels to the collaboration. Investigators can use the panels to screen multiple targets and mechanisms simultaneously.

AstraZeneca has made 22 compounds available to scientists working with both NCATS and the UK's Medical Research Council. According to a company announcement:

"AstraZeneca had conducted early trials of these compounds and validated their use for future research, but had put them on hold for further development. This collaboration extends the possible application of these compounds for use in new areas."

During fiscal year 2013, NCATS planned to grant up to $20 million for two and three-year cooperative research projects as part of its Discovering New Therapeutic Uses for Existing Molecules pilot program.

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