Drug repurposing, reprofiling, repositioning is growing like crazy! Industry, academia and philanthropy are suddenly all looking to drug repurposing as way to create “new” treatments. I just attended my fifth international drug repurposing conference in the last 24 months, this time in London. All five conferences have been small and personal-no more than 60 people, often as few as 25. The attendees at this conference included two academics, ten from biotech, ten from pharma, a few consultants, one venture capitalist and one from philanthropy-me from Cures Within Reach. Three attendees were from the US and the rest were from Europe.
A few common themes arose during the conference, similar to the themes at other drug repurposing conferences and listed in other locations:
1) There are significant opportunities to improve patient lives through drug repurposing
2) There are thousands of not yet approved compounds in pharmaceutical libraries that are safe for human use but not yet approved for human use
3) There are many avenues for uncovering these repurposing opportunities
a. Computerized literature review to uncover the obvious and non-obvious repurposing opportunities that have already been uncovered but not exploited
b. Drug screening against specific diseases
c. Validation of clinical observations
d. Leveraging new genetic or other biologic discoveries
e. Leveraging new knowledge about drug mechanism of action
4) We can improve the success of repurposing when we can get access at a reasonable cost to these compounds, especially those that have not yet been approved as drugs since they were halted late in the drug discovery process and are probably safe for human use
5) The rate limiting step is creating economic value in the rediscovery use, especially through creation of intellectual property protection
6) We can improve the chances of creating economic value by finding ways to validate a repurposing discovery as quickly and inexpensively as possible
7) Regulatory agencies could help patients by creating new processes for the streamlined approval of repurposed drugs with known human safety
I conducted a workshop for the attendees focused on two issues: creating collaborations to move drug repurposing forward, and finding ways to increase the economic value of drug repurposing. We did a great job of solving the first issue-almost everyone at the conference, including me, left having at least one new collaboration opportunity. I left with half a dozen new potential partners, and had several company representatives ask me if they could give me drug repurposing leads they had uncovered where it was clear there would never be any intellectual property protection. On the topic of creating economic value, we generated a lot of great ideas, and hopefully the collaborations will be a starting point to develop them into mechanisms that can impact patients!