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Issue
Eleven

Progress so far

The DDU has already made some significant breakthroughs. In tropical diseases, it has delivered two series of lead compounds that could lead to new drugs to treat sleeping sickness, and Ferguson says they could be ready for the first clinical trials within the next year.  Another team in innovative targets and pathways has helped translate a potential drug target for skin disorders, discovered by Professor Irwin McLean and colleagues, which is generating interest from a number of leading pharmaceutical firms. This build…

Progress so far

Progress so far

The DDU has already made some significant breakthroughs. In tropical diseases, it has delivered two series of lead compounds that could lead to new drugs to treat sleeping sickness, and Ferguson says they could be ready for the first clinical trials within the next year.  Another team in innovative targets and pathways has helped translate a potential drug target for skin disorders, discovered by Professor Irwin McLean and colleagues, which is generating interest from a number of leading pharmaceutical firms. This builds on a discovery four years ago that about 50 per cent of the people who suffer from severe eczema carry mutations in the filaggrin gene, and is another good example of “de-risking” research to reach the stage where targets have commercial potential.  “To show that a great scientific discovery has real therapeutic potential through early-stage drug discovery is the target de-risking paradigm that the innovative targets and pathways team are working to,” says Ferguson. 

Among the unit's other notable achievements are:

>    More than 50 assays developed or optimised

>    45 hit discovery campaigns plus one SBDD (structure-based drug design) project

>    3,000 compounds made in-house

>    Ten projects taken into hits to leads

>    Two projects in lead optimisation – with cures in animal models of African sleeping sickness  on oral dosing

Apart from these encouraging results, the DDU plays a key role in increasing the chance of success in developing candidate compounds by reducing the risks for pharmaceutical producers. A few years ago, when the genomics explosion got everyone very excited, the industry was “trapped in the headlights,” says Ferguson, thinking every protein in the human genome could be a target, but screening every compound against every target was not very practical. “What got lost then was the deep biological science. We want the druggable golden nuggets – we don't want a great drug that doesn't cure anything,” Ferguson adds.

Ten years from now, the hope is that more of the DDU's and their collaborators' science will be in the clinic, and whether that means all the work on the druggable target is done in Dundee or in partnership with pharma, Ferguson would see it as an equal success. “We're just happy to be part of the translational pipeline,” he says.

 

"Progress so far". Science Scotland (Issue Eleven)
Printed from http://www.sciencescotland.org/feature.php?id=131 on 12/12/17 04:35:39 AM

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