Getting Effective Drugs to Market Faster at a Fraction of the Cost with Swansea University Technology

1 in 5,000 medicines make it to market. 1 in 5,000. To give this some perspective, this is the same number as the ‘crazily high’ odds given to a handful of punters that backed Leicester City to win the Premier League in 2015.

Leicester

A prospect that was deemed less likely than discovering the Loch Ness monster, Simon Cowell becoming Prime Minister or finding Elvis Presley alive.  An achievement described as a miracle, a lifetime achievement, a great day for dreamers. 

Typically, it will take 12 years to get a new drug from the initial drug discovery stage, to market. Although the exact figures are disputed, some experts put the cost of drug development today at a staggering £1.15bn per drug.  So what if you are struggling with Bowel Cancer?  Showing early signs of Dementia? Just been diagnosed with Diabetes, Parkinson’s, lung disease, heart disease, or a brain tumour?  Scientists across the country are making major breakthroughs every day in all these areas. There is a 1 in 5,000 chance there will be a new cure or treatment available in about 12 years’ time.

What do we do if there is an outbreak of a major global disease - the next Bubonic Plague, Spanish flu, smallpox, cholera, typhus or malaria epidemic?  Or what happens when the last strains of antibiotics stop working? Tens of millions’ will suffer, whilst new drugs or methods for treating disease are developed.

Today, the global pharmaceutical industry is investing more in R&D than any other industry – in the UK alone, £11.5m is invested every day in this crucial industry.  Diseases are being researched, cures and treatments are being developed, lives are being saved and drastically improved.  

A significant factor in the lack of availability of cures for many diseases is the high cost of drug development. For every marketed medicine that is profitable, 25,000 chemical compounds will have been tested.  25 of these will have gone into clinical trials and 5 received approval for marketing.   

Getting better drugs to market faster, and at a fraction of the cost, is a challenge Moleculomics has been addressing directly.  

The Swansea University spin out business has been developing comprehensive platforms of computer generated models for protein structures in the human body.  Using the latest high performance computing technology, they are now able to run millions of mathematical simulations over short spaces of time to determine how all these proteins interact with various chemical compounds they are exposed to in real life conditions. In essence the company are able to rapidly accelerate discovery of new drug leads as well as predict whether a compound will provoke an Adverse Drug Reaction (ADR) in the human body.

In December 2016, the Government of Canada joined the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), Unilever, Dow and NC3Rs in supporting Moleculomics, who are now in the process of developing a new set of tools and processes which will allow us to distinguish between a "safe" drug destined for market and a "bad" drug destined to be withdrawn from the development process due to toxic effects towards the beginning of the drug development process. 

“It’s an exciting development that addresses head-on why certain compounds make good, generally safe, drugs and others are associated with more toxicity to the human body, by profiling the intricate interactions that they have with many hundreds of receptors” explained Dr Jonathan Mullins, CEO of the Moleculomics group,

“Thanks to the funding provided by IRAP, this project will provide a tool which will predict the outcome of a drug development project before even entering the laboratory; all using the latest High Performance Computing (supercomputer) technology and some highly innovative algorithms” commented Dr Will Krawszik, Head of Operations for Moleculomics. 

In early 2017 Moleculomics will launch their flagship product Human3DProteome.  This will, for the first time, enable the high throughput screening of candidate small molecule compounds against every protein in the human body – a library of 30,000+ potential drug targets.  The workflows being developed as part of this solution will  provide a powerful open-ended, lead discovery environment, identifying on-target and off-target interactions across the whole proteome; detailed characterisation of active sites and millions of protein-compound interactions, involving thousands of lead compounds, screened for interaction with 1,500 drug targets of known pharmacological and therapeutic action; and a drug repurposing platform featuring all 1,600 FDA approved drugs and tens of thousands of new repurposing leads. 

By conducting computer based in silico analysis at the beginning of the drug discovery stage, many more potential drugs can be considered for a greater diversity of therapeutic applications, and drugs that are likely to fail would be taken out of the process before clinical trials begin, allowing more resources to be placed on those that are likely to succeed.  

Given over half the resources taken to develop a new drug are required at the various Clinical Trial stages, the time and cost saving of this new technology is huge, and the impact on our global population, staggering. 

About Moleculomics

As a vehicle for the advancement of alternative technologies for small molecule discovery and purposing, Moleculomics, a UK university spin-out company formed in 2012 has developed powerful in silico protein structural modelling and ligand docking platforms, at proteome-scale for simulating real-life conditions and molecular interactions at whole system level. R&D is built on a track record of structural modelling research featured in >50 journal publications.  Over the past four years Moleculomics have been delivering commercial R&D programs including both Hit-to-Lead and toxicity screening work in prestigious projects with UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), Unilever, Dow and NC3Rs resulting in a range of technologies described as “world leading”.  For more information, please visit www.moleculomics.com 

*figures from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry