NCATS issues awards to repurpose shelved compounds

June 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

The National Institutes of Health announced today that it has awarded $12.7 million to nine academic research groups matched with pharmaceutical companies to explore new uses for some of the companies’ shelved compounds. One of the awards was issued to ASBMB member Stephen M. Strittmatter and his team at Yale University School of Medicine.

Strittmatter, along with Haakon Berge Nygaard and Christopher H. Van Dyck, will explore the use of a compound from AstraZeneca called saracatinib, or AZD0530. The team recently characterized, using a mouse model, a pathway in which beta amyloid damages neurons in Alzheimer’s disease; they found that inhibiting the Fyn kinase in that pathway reduced symptoms. The new study will test the use of saracatinib as a Fyn inhibitor, first in mice and later in humans, for safety. Previously, AstraZeneca had tested the compound in humans with cancer.

Another group based at Baylor College of Medicine will study saracatinib in a lung disease called lymphangioleiomyomatosis.

The award program, called Discovering New Therapeutic Uses for Existing Molecules, is led by the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences and is funded by the NIH Common Fund. In late May 2012, NCATS made available information about more than 50 shelved compounds and solicited proposals about new uses from academic researchers. Those proposals were peer-reviewed, and then cooperative agreements between the winning institutions and the pharmaceutical companies were forged.

During a news teleconference today, NCATS officials indicated that they’d aimed to fund about six projects through the program but ended up having enough money to fund more because the funding requests from the winning proposals were lower than expected.

NCATS Director Christopher P. Austin said during the telebriefing: “These companies have invested between $10 (million) to even $100 million in these drugs to get them to this point. We around here talk about football. This is an analogy of the drug-development process … Some of these drugs have been taken all the way to the 10-yard line or the 5-yard line, and we’re hoping that we can have a new special team come in and even run a play or two and have a touchdown formation. So we’re really hopeful one of these will result in the end zone really soon.”

 

This is a guest post by Angela Hopp, editor of ASBMB Today.

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