By Elie Dolgin
Prompted by the low success rates and high costs of drug development, pharmaceutical companies have increasingly turned to drug repositioning, also known as repurposing, to refurbish dwindling product pipelines—but the trend has spilled beyond industry. With an increasing academic focus on translational medicine, nonprofit research organizations are also looking to encourage new uses for old drugs, and some are earmarking money specifically for the effort.
"Certainly, this is an area that seems ripe for some further investigation," Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, told Nature Medicine.
Although the NIH has yet to formally launch any drug repositioning–specific grant schemes, some nonprofit organizations and academic institutions already have. In late July, for example, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) announced the recipients of its first awards designated specifically for repositioning studies. Five of the six projects, funded for a total of $2.4 million, will take drugs originally developed for a range of ailments, including tuberculosis, depression and diabetes, and test them in animal and cellular models of Parkinson’s disease. The sixth grant will fund a human trial of a pupil-dilating eye drug called tropicamide to treat uncontrolled drooling in people with Parkinson’s...
[T]he University of New Mexico (UNM) Health Sciences Center’s Clinical and Translational Science Center in Albuquerque— one of 60 members of the NIH’s Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) consortium—issued its own call for repurposing grant applications. Although these awards are small, ranging from $5,000 to $50,000, they are intended to help investigators secure much larger NIH grants afterward.
"This approach that we’re trying to apply with the RFA allows clinical investigators to establish high-throughput screens that scan all known drugs against their molecular targets of interest," says UNM’s Richard Larson, who oversees the CTSA award.
Larson, who also serves as vice chancellor for research at the UNM Health Sciences Center, cites the NIH’s proposed new translational medicine hub, the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), as well as UNM’s involvement in the federal agency’s Molecular Libraries Probe Production Centers Network, as inspiration for focusing on drug repositioning. "It seemed to us, because of the impending formation of NCATS and the fact that we were in a somewhat unique position, that we would look for ways to strategically and tactically do that," he says.
For the full article, please see: http://blogs.nature.com/spoonful/2011/09/nonprofit_disease_groups_earma.html
Reproduced with the permission of Nature Publishing Group. Dolgin E. Nat Med. 2011 Sep 7;17(9):1027.