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  • 14 July 2015
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Asian startup shows why drug research data should be made public


A small drug discovery company, Curadev Pharma, incubated at a top engineering institution for four years and now on its own in the Indian capital suburb of NOIDA is showing the world how one can go far with some innovative ideas. Just five years old, Curadev has signed a mind-boggling $550 million research and development with Roche to take its anti-cancer drug forward.

Roche has picked up two molecules, IDO1(Indoleamine-2,3-dioxygenase-1) and TDO(tryptophan-2, 3-dioxygnase) developed by Curadev that shows very good response in treating cancer-induced immune suppression. Roche has signed exclusive licensing and development agreement with Curadev, founded by Dr Arjun Surya and colleagues at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, in 2010. Roche will pay $25 million upfront to Curadev and further $550 million in various milestone payments as it takes it through the various phases of drug development. If the drug gets commercial approval, there will be more royalty payments too for Curadev.

This is an interesting development. The promoters had worked for few decades some of the top pharma companies before founding Curadev. This is how they do it. "Currently, our selection of drug targets is curated from peer-reviewed literature from disparate research groups. We analyze gene knockout information, animal model data for disease amelioration and in-vitro data that speak to one function and expression of the target. For promising targets that have not yet made it to the clinics we prefer a collaborative approach with external partners. This provides both the teams cost-effective resources that can mitigate the risk associated with the testing of early stage ideas that have the potential to become next generation drugs," describes the company on its website.

Essentially, Curadev's team is taking a re-look at many of the existing research work. Drug discovery is an expensive and time consuming process. Every year thousands of potential compounds are discarded by researchers around the world for not fitting into the areas they are looking for. Thousands of drugs fail at the clinical stage every year. But there are always other potential uses for these drugs, in many unexplored segments.

No wonder the World Health Organization (WHO) of the United Nations has mooted a proposal to make all the clinical data generated across the world available to researchers every where. Now the voluminous data of most of the failed drugs are locked away in company vaults and rarely dusted up. Millions of dollars spent on each of these failed compounds could be put to better use if other research teams are able to take a fresh look at these products and devise new uses.

Few years ago, one of the Big Pharma companies had started a pilot project along these lines and handed over the clinical data of few specified products to Harvard University to be shared to researchers all over the world. The WHO suggestion seeks to formalize such arrangements.
It will be a wonderful gesture if pharma research companies join the WHO campaign and create a global depository of research data on all pharmaceutical products. The creative energies of thousands of researchers around the world will be able to mine the complex drug discovery data and create products to treat hundreds of disease that too need attention.

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