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August 13, 2007
Volume 85, Number 33
p. 11


Spotlight On Drug Research

Meeting attendees ponder routes to better quality drug candidates

Rick Mullin

MORE THAN 3,000 drug discovery and development research managers from industry and academia convened in Boston last week for the 12th annual Drug Discovery & Development of Innovative Therapeutics (DDT) conference. Technical sessions focused on advances and obstacles in bringing breakthrough drugs to market for cancer, as well as for metabolic, inflammatory, and central nervous system diseases.

Rick Mullin/C&EN

Speakers emphasized the importance of target validation and modeling and of eliminating guesswork in drug discovery. The need for standardized biomarkers was a pervasive topic at the event, as was the need to better manage information and facilitate collaboration.

Ingrid E. Akerblom, executive director of research informatics services at Merck & Co. and a speaker at the DDT conference, said the drug industry needs to "cross the divide" between drug discovery and clinical trials, sharing information between the two activities to make each more efficient. "We used to say we need more shots on goal," she said, referring to the number of drug candidates going into development. "We can't afford more shots on goal. We need better shots on goal."

In a keynote speech on the importance of RNA interference in therapeutic applications, Craig C. Mello, Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center and winner with Andrew Z. Fire of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of RNAi, also emphasized the importance of sharing information in research.

"We won the Nobel Prize because of a collaboration," said Mello. "Those brainstorming sessions are incredibly important," he said, especially when scientists come at problems from different perspectives. "I encourage everyone, within their own companies as well as between companies, to be a little more open and free with your ideas. It's risky to share, but chances are you'll advance your understanding much more rapidly with better experiments by having someone else's input."

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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