Open-Source Drug Discovery Could Lead to New Treatments

Researchers given 400 drug-like molecules to academic labs for free.

Researchers were recently able to identify compounds that could be used to treat and prevent illnesses, such as malaria.

The Medicines for Malaria Venture gave 400 compounds believed to have antimalarial activity to 200 labs around the world, called the Malaria Box. The compounds given to academic labs were similar to those found in industry collections.

The results of one-third of the labs started more than 12 drug-development projects, according to the study published by PLOS Pathogens.

“The trial was successful not only in identifying compounds to pursue for anti-malarials, but it also identified compounds to treat other parasites and cancer,” said lead author Wesley Van Voorhis, MD, PhD.

Because of this research, the National Cancer Institute is in the process of creating an experimental drug to treat colon cancer. Other labs are creating anti-worm compounds and other anti-parasitic drugs.

Researchers believe that collaboration between researchers and pharmaceutical manufacturers has prevented innovation in the past. This effort was so successful that they have started distributing compounds that could have further uses, called the Pathogen Box.

“Much of the global resource in biology is present in universities, whereas the focus of medicinal chemistry is still largely within industry,” the researchers concluded. “Open-source drug discovery, with sharing of information, is clearly a first step towards overcoming that gap.”