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NCATS Turns to Crowdsourcing

The National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences is doling out $12.7 million in new grants to nine academic research teams that will try to come up with new uses for existing compounds that are owned by major pharmaceutical firms.

Billed as a crowdsourcing effort aimed at trying to find new uses for therapeutic targets that were shelved by pharma companies, but which have already been proven to be relatively safe, the initiative represents has just the kind of dynamic possibilities that NIH Director Francis Collins dreamt of when he launched NCATS.

"This unique collaboration between academia and industry holds the promise of trimming years from the long and expensive process of drug development," Collins says in a statement yesterday.

These agreements made it possible for NCATS to lure some of the heavyweights of the pharmaceutical field to offer up their unused drugs, some of which they have already spent great sums of money, time, and effort to develop.

The commercial partners in this pilot phase of the program will include Abbvie (formerly Abbott); AstraZeneca; Bristol-Myers Squibb; Eli Lilly; GlaxoSmithKline; Janssen Research and Development; Pfizer; and Sanofi.

This round of grant winners will test select compounds for its effectiveness against a disease or condition which it was not targeted to before. They plan to test these compounds for effectiveness against alcohol dependence; Alzheimer's disease; calcific aortic valve stenosis; nicotine dependence; peripheral artery disease; schizophrenia; Duchenne muscular dystrophy; and the lung disease lymphangioleiomyomatosis.