Transparency and drug discovery don’t usually go together, what with patents, IP and paywalls hiding useful knowledge from researchers working on similar problems. But the Structural Genomics Consortium has a different approach. That’s right, crowdsourcing has made its way to drug discovery. The SGC partners with six research universities, nine of the largest pharma innovators, and government agencies to provide open source data about protein structures that can be used to develop hard-to-design drugs. They’re currently using the approach to, ahem, stick it to Huntington’s (see, it’s funny because they’re literally trying to bind molecules to the protein that causes the disease.) For a small contribution of $8 million—cheap by R&D standards—any organization can nominate proteins to the SGC’s master to-do list.
Turns out there might be somebody to blame when you can’t sleep at night. Snoring partner? Crying baby? Game of Thrones creators for making us wait forever for season 7? Nope, nope, and nope. Your parents. But not because they inflicted irreparable emotional damage by never buying you Legos. It’s because you may have genes that cause sleep issues. Scientists have recently linked two genes with sleeping problems. Research subjects with a mutant FABP7 gene sleep more fitfully at night and those with a CRY1 variant are found to have abnormal circadian rhythms. With more research, hopefully more effective sleep disorder treatments can be developed. Barenaked Ladies asked, “Who Needs Sleep?” Not this guy. He’s good.
Ever looking for something to wear and end up deciding that pair of jeans at the bottom of the hamper is your best option, even though you’d previously deemed them too stained/stinky/crusty to wear? (Uh, yeah, us neither… Awkward.) Anyway…AstraZeneca is doing the same thing. But with drugs. Its “Emerging Innovations Unit” oversees a number of drugs that AZ had shelved and molecules that never progressed to human testing. The unit licenses shelved drugs to other companies and also partners with university scientists to continue research. AZ says the new strategy has led to substantial improvements in its research output. Maybe, just maybe, those dirty jeans are worth taking for another spin around the block.
Takeda is building a Bbidge, both literally and figuratively. Their newest venture, Bridge Medicines, combines the innovative research from three leading US universities and Takeda’s checkbook along with the capital of two healthcare VC firms. The three universities, all part of the Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute (Tri-I TDI), discover new therapies that oftentimes don’t make it to clinical trials. This is where Bridge Medicines comes in. The most promising projects will now have resources and funding to expedite the development process to move from proof-of-concept to in-human clinical trials. Tip of the hat to Takeda on this one as they are then positioned to call dibs on the most appealing ones.
The Department of Health and Human Services released new policies Friday aimed at improving clinical trial access for the general public. AKA, the reason why clinicaltrials.gov was created. Turns out not everyone has been participating equally in the project though—a 2014 study reported that 30 percent of trials don’t publish information to the site. Vice President Joe Biden is annoyed. In June he even threatened to cut off funding to noncompliant institutions. Friday’s policies expand the types of studies that must be reported on, ask for faster registration of trials and generally require more detailed information about the research. See what you did researchers? You didn’t listen to the teacher the first time and now you have even more homework. Classic mistake.
Drug innovation post-pharma mergers drops faster than Ryan Lochte’s credibility post-Olympics according to a study published by the Harvard Business Review. Researchers analyzed 65 pharma deals and found that innovation declines post-merger, both within the merging companies and among competitors of the new entity. The data show that patenting and R&D spending among competitors drops by more than 20% within four years after the merger. Researchers theorize this innovation decline among competitors occurs because the merger has created one less rival competing in the same therapeutic area. Thus, less push to innovate. With increasing awareness of the impact on innovation, we’ll see if regulators are quicker to put the kibosh on future mergers.