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NHGRI, Partners Start Drug Repurposing Collaboration

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) –The National Institutes of Health said today that it has inked a research collaboration agreement with The University of Kansas Medical Center and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) to accelerate development of potential therapeutics for rare blood cancers into proof-of-concept studies.

Called The Learning Collaborative (TLC), the project will join the resources of the National Human Genome Research Institute's Therapeutics for Rare and Neglected Diseases (TRND) Program, UK's Institute for Advancing Medical Innovation (IAMI), LLS, and the Hematology Branch within the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

The collaboration's first pilot effort is a TRND-led program that will focus on development of an existing small molecule drug called auranofin, which has been shown safe for arthritis treatment, as a possible therapeutic for relapsed patients suffering from chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

CLL generally affects older people, is diagnosed in around 15,000 people in the US each year, and is currently treated using various chemotherapies, to which patients eventually become resistant.

The TLC partners plan to work to speed up the development of auranofin as a CLL treatment and complete preclinical and clinical studies within two years, at which time an industry partner will be engaged.

"The goal of [TLC] is to bridge the gap in time and resources that often exists between basic research and human testing of potential new treatments and accelerate and make more efficient the delivery of improved therapies to patients with rare blood cancers," Chris Austin, director of NHGRI's TRND program, said in a statement. "As a result of our work, as the TLC name implies, we plan to learn more about and improve the drug development process for all diseases."

"This agreement recognizes that academic, philanthropic and patient organizations have a role — and a responsibility — to be active leaders in the drug discovery process," added Roy Jensen, director of The University of Kansas Cancer Center said in a statement. "I hope this agreement can serve as a model to other academic and patient communities."