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NIH, FDA, DARPA to Fund Development of Chip for Drug Safety Assessment

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – President Obama today announced an effort pulling together the resources of three government entities to develop a chip to screen for drug safety and effectiveness.

Under the initiative, the National Institutes of Health, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and the US Food and Drug Administration will develop the chip to screen for drug toxicity and effectiveness more quickly than is possible with current technology and before the drug is tested on humans, NIH said.

The chip, which will be loaded with specific cell types to reflect human biology, will be designed to allow for different readouts for indications of a drug compound's safety. FDA will determine the use of the technology to evaluate the safety of a compound before it is approved for testing in humans.

NIH plans to commit up to $70 million to the effort during the next five years, while DARPA will commit "a comparable amount." The agencies will run separate and independent programs but will collaborate to "ensure maximum benefit and efficiencies."

The three partners will begin soliciting proposals in the fall from industry, government laboratories, academic institutions, and other research organizations to develop the chip technology.

"Drug toxicity is one of the most common reasons [that] promising compounds fail," Francis Collins, director of NIH, said in a statement. "We need to know which ones are safe and effective much earlier in the process. This is an unprecedented opportunity to speed development of effective therapies, while saving time and money."

NIH also pointed out that today's announcement is an example of the type of projects that would result from the proposed National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, which would "help identify barriers to progress and provide science-based solutions to reduce costs and the time required to develop new drugs and diagnostics."

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