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Getting better drugs to market, more quickly

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Getting better drugs to market faster, and at a fraction of the cost, is a step closer thanks to technology for speeding up the testing process, which is being developed by a Swansea University spin-out company, Moleculomics.

The company 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.

This means the company can 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.

The high cost of drug development is a major obstacle to finding cures for many diseases. Although the exact figures are disputed, some experts put the cost of drug development today at £1.15bn per drug. Over half the resources needed to develop a new drug are required at the various clinical trial stages.

  • 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.
  • 1 in 5,000 medicines make it to market.
  • Typically, it will take 12 years to get a new drug from the initial drug discovery stage, to market.

Moleculomics was set up by Dr Jonathan Mullins at Swansea University's Medical School, and was supported by the University's Research, Engagement and Innovation Services team. The company funds 2 senior researchers and 4 PhD students at the University.

Moleculomics 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processes which will allow us to distinguish between a "safe" drug destined for market and a "bad" drug destined to be withdrawn from the development process due to toxic effects towards the beginning of the drug development process.

They will also shortly be launching 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 programme of research receives funding from the Government of Canada, the UK Ministry of Defence, Unilever, Dow and NC3Rs.

Dr Jonathan Mullins, founder and CEO of the Moleculomics group, and an academic at Swansea University, said:

"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"

Dr Will Krawszik, Head of Operations for Moleculomics, and a former member of staff at Swansea University, said:

"This will provide a tool which can predict the outcome of a drug development project before even entering the laboratory, all using the latest supercomputing technology and some highly innovative algorithms"

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; 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. 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 the global population, potentially profound.

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Notes to editors:

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 more than 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 http://www.moleculomics.com

Swansea University is a world-class, research-led, dual campus university. The University was established in 1920 and was the first campus university in the UK. It currently offers around 350 undergraduate courses and 350 postgraduate courses to circa 20,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students.

The University's 46-acre Singleton Park Campus is located in beautiful parkland with views across Swansea Bay. The University's 65-acre science and innovation Bay Campus, which opened in September 2015, is located a few miles away on the eastern approach to the city. It has the distinction of having direct access to a beach and its own seafront promenade. Both campuses are close to the Gower Peninsula, the UK's first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Swansea is ranked the top university in Wales and is currently The Times and The Sunday Times 'Welsh University of the Year'. It is also ranked within the top 350 best universities in the world in the Times Higher Education World University rankings.

The results of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 showed the University has achieved its ambition to be a top 30 research University, soaring up the league table to 26th in the UK, with the 'biggest leap among research-intensive institutions' (Times Higher Education, December 2014) in the UK.

The University has ambitious expansion plans as it moves towards its centenary in 2020, as it continues to extend its global reach and realising its domestic and international ambitions.

Swansea University is a registered charity. No.1138342. Visit http://www.swansea.ac.uk

Contact details:

Kevin Sullivan, Public Relations Officer, Swansea University press office. [email protected] Tel 44 1792 513 245

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