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NCATS Teams Up with Eli Lilly

Molecular structureHow can drug discovery and development be accelerated? One possible answer is to test thousands of medicines for activity against disease pathways not previously considered. The resulting comprehensive information about each medicine could lead to new and different uses for medicines that already exist — much faster than starting from scratch. A new partnership between NCATS and pharmaceutical leader Eli Lilly and Company aims to create this vital public resource.

The power of this collaboration lies in the secret weapons both players bring to the effort. NCATS’ contribution is the NCATS Pharmaceutical Collection (NPC), which includes thousands of medicines, some already approved and others investigational. Eli Lilly offers its Phenotypic Drug Discovery (PD2) assay panel, part of its Open Innovation Drug Discovery Platform.

PD2 is a unique collection of assays based on biological pathways relevant to a variety of human ailments, including cardiovascular diseases, cancers and endocrine disorders. Because these assays provide a relevant biological context, with no single mechanism-driven hypothesis attached, investigators can screen multiple targets and mechanisms simultaneously. Over the next year and a half, NPC agents will be tested against PD2 and the results made available to the public.

This open process will mean that a medicine showing some activity against a disease pathway of interest to an investigator could be the impetus for a new partnership between that investigator and the owner of the medicine. Similarly, an agent with activity in a particular disease pathway might serve as a starting point for additional research to create a new treatment. Either way, the goal of NCATS’ collaboration with Lilly — to be a catalyst for drug development — will be met. Most importantly, the results might translate into new clinical trials and help treat some previously untreatable disease.

The innovative toolbox created by combining these two one-of-a-kind resources will offer unprecedented power. “This initiative is a great example of how we can collectively leverage unique capabilities from the public and private sectors toward our shared goal of advancing science and improving patients’ lives,” said Dr. Alan D. Palkowitz, vice president of discovery chemistry research and technologies at Eli Lilly. Former NCATS Acting Director Dr. Thomas R. Insel called the collaboration “exactly the type of partnership that NCATS is eager to foster with many other groups from industry, government and academia.”

The NCATS-Lilly collaboration will help both organizations meet their long-range goals and offers the promise of advancing translational science in a powerful new way. The new information about medicines in the NPC generated in this effort could help researchers anticipate treatment outcomes, shorten drug development time, and lead to more specific and effective therapeutics.

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