June 25, 2005

NIH funds Schiz. Drug Research


This is a very interesting and positive development - the NIH is starting to fund smaller companies for development of new therapies for schizophrenia. This is great news, as we've mentioned before, there are a lot of good drug targets and ideas that are developed in university labs, but are still too far from development for large pharma and venture capital firms to be interested in investing. Typically less than 1% of new discoveries that look like they might be good candidates for drug therapies ever actually make it to market, so the lack of interest from standard commercial venture groups is understandable - so this is a good way to jumpstart the process.

The National Institutes of Health has decided to take an "unusual step (by) offering to pay pharmaceutical companies to carry out early clinical trials of experimental drugs." Currently, there seems to be "a shortage of breakthrough drugs" and though many promising ideas come out of university labs, most go untested for reasons concerning competition and lack of funding. Thus, this step is an attempt to help the current situation. Further, the NIH has decided to start by focusing on the development of drugs which will help treat schizophrenia.

"The program is starting with schizophrenia, a debilitating mental illness that hasn't had a truly new drug-treatment approach in 50 years. The NIH project invited drug makers to participate in a clinical-trial network that would clear away some of the cost and risk of drug development for the companies, and would give them access to top government and academic scientists. In all, 24 drugs were offered, mostly by small companies, but drug giant Eli Lilly & Co. also raised its hand. Two compounds to treat schizophrenia, developed by Organon Inc. and Targacept Inc., were picked to be tested later this summer"

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