Sunday, September 18, 2011

Collaborative to Develop Safe Drugs

NIH, DARPA, and FDA are going to collaborate to develop a chip to screen for safe and effective drugs more efficiently than current methods used and before they are tested in humans. The chip will contain specific cell types that reflect human biology and designed to allow multiple readouts that will indicate whether a particular compound is likely to be safe or toxic for humans.

Over the next five years, NIH plans to commit up to $70 million for the research and DARPA will commit a comparable amount. DARPA and NIH will run separate and independent programs but work closely together with FDA.

This fall, the two agencies in coordination with FDA will solicit proposals from industry, government labs, academic institutions, and other research organizations on how best to develop the chip. The goal is to bring the latest advances together in engineering, biology, and toxicology to work on this complex problem.

“Drug toxicity is one of the most common reasons why promising compounds fail” according to Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, NIH Director. “We need to know which ones are safe and effective much earlier in the process.”

This effort is an example of the types of innovative projects that could be led by the proposed “National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences” (NCATS) to provide science-based solutions that would reduce costs and the time required to develop new drugs and diagnostics.

“We know the development pipeline has bottlenecks in it, and everyone would benefit from fixing them,” said Collins. “What we need are entirely novel approaches to translational science to take full advantage of the deluge of new biomedical discoveries that have been made in recent years.”