Innovation accelerates drug discovery

Published October 2015

Few pharmaceutical companies will take a risk on a drug that has not made it through the first phase of a clinical trial, a lengthy and expensive process. With that in mind, a team of Purdue researchers is working to make new drugs more attractive to companies, thus accelerating a new drug's route to the patient.

Purdue is partnering with several institutions — including the Houston Methodist Research Institute and University of Pennsylvania Medial Center — to translate new drugs into clinical trials. In addition, Purdue has launched Boilermaker Health Innovations, a nonprofit corporation aimed at providing funding for these clinical trials. Its board is nearly ready to select the first candidate drug for translation.

Research photo

Timothy L. Ratliff, who is the Robert Wallace Miller Director of the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research and distinguished professor of comparative pathobiology, co-founded Boilermaker Health Innovations with Philip Low, Purdue's Ralph C. Corley Distinguished Professor of Chemistry. “The drug discovery program is now outstanding with 16 drugs in clinical trials," Ratliff says, "but with Boilermaker Health Innovations and several newly recruited drug discovery faculty, the impact of Purdue on drug development will rise to a new level.”

The collaboration between Purdue and these institutions will allow researchers to translate discoveries into new medicines and technologies and run clinical trials at internal costs. This is essential to expedite the process of bringing innovations from bench top to bedside, and to achieve the goal of drug discovery prescribed within the world-changing research segment of Purdue Moves.

With nearly 30 drugs at various stages of preclinical discovery and development by Purdue researchers — an unprecedented number for a university — a regulatory external advisory meeting, comprised of experts from the pharmaceutical industry, was formed to review and identify a handful of the drugs for clinical studies. According to Low, they've narrowed it to three “very competitive” and “worthy” options, all within the field of oncology.

“The goal is to identify the one that looks the most promising and start raising money for that specific drug,” Low says. “It's a lot easier to raise money with a target in focus than for a general concept.”