The Search for New Drugs

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Drug discovery has never been easy. No one knows how many plants our ancestors tried — or were poisoned by — before figuring out that willow bark could ease a headache or that aloe could soothe a sunburn. Clearly, the drug discovery process has been modernized since then, with advances including high-content screening and the advent of semantic Web tools, but the failure rate remains exceedingly high while the time commitment is also incredibly long. It can take anywhere from three to seven years to go from the discovery to preclinical stages, and the rate of failure is around 90 percent.

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The US Food and Drug Administration has new guidelines that enable some gene and cell therapies to undergo expedited review, according to the New York Times.

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In Science this week: intellectual property experts argue patent battles such as the one over CRISPR are wasteful, and more.

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