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Five More Pharma Companies Join NIH Drug Extension Project

White pills in a prescription bottle (


A program at National Institutes of Health (NIH) to find new uses for currently tested drugs gained five more pharmaceutical company participants. Abbott, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen Pharmaceutical (a division of Johnson & Johnson), and Sanofi will take part in the Discovering New Therapeutic Uses for Existing Molecules program, run by National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at NIH.

Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Eli Lilly and Company were the first three pharma companies to sign on to the Therapeutics Discovery initiative early in May. The collaboration matches researchers with 58 compounds to test their prospects for new therapeutic uses. Because these drugs have already been through several key development steps, including safety testing on humans, the compounds are considered prime candidates for the discovery of new treatments or therapies.

Participating drug companies offer their compounds that meet certain criteria. Among the compounds sought for further testing, for example, are those that advanced to clinical studies but were unsuccessful in their original therapeutic objective, or not pursued for business reasons. Current drugs offered up by the participating companies include those developed for a range of conditions, including cancer, diabetes, asthma, depression, schizophrenia, and pain medications.

During the pilot phase of the program, NCATS will fund up to $20 million for two- to three-year staged, cooperative agreement research grants. Researchers funded in this project will first conduct pre-clinical validation and clinical feasibility studies, and then proof-of-concept clinical trials to test the effectiveness of the compounds against previously unexplored disease targets. The pilot phase will also test the usefulness of the new template agreements designed to reduce negotiation times that otherwise could delay the research.

NIH has issued a funding announcement for the Therapeutics Discovery program. Pre-applications, from which NIH will select finalist candidates, are due by 14 August 2012.

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