Reuters (05.03.12) - Wednesday, May 09, 2012
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced Thursday it
is partnering with Pfizer Inc., AstraZeneca Plc., and Eli
Lilly and Co. to find new uses for 24 existing drug compounds.
All the compounds have been shown to be safe, but they were
shelved for being ineffective against the diseases they were
developed to treat. Drugmakers typically spend $2 billion and
14 years bringing medicines to market. In the past, dozens of
drugs that were originally developed for one disease have been
repurposed for another - usually by chance. For example, AZT
(azidothymidine) was approved in the 1960s to treat cancer but
abandoned for lack of efficacy. It later became the first
effective treatment for HIV.
NIH will spend $20 million annually for researchers to find
new uses for the 24 compounds. "We need to speed the pace at
which we are turning discoveries into better health outcomes,"
said Dr. Francis Collins, the agency's director. "The idea
here is not to depend on serendipity."
Scientists who discover a new use for a compound will be
eligible for royalty payments if the drug reaches the market,
while the pharmaceutical firm will hold the patent rights. The
names of the 24 compounds in the pilot project will be
disclosed next month, NIH said.
"NIH looks forward to working with our partners in industry
and academia to tackle an urgent need that is beyond the scope
of any one organization or sector," Collins said.