The Oxford Drug Discovery Institute will work with academics to develop the most promising targets through early-phase drug discovery.
We are taking a broad approach to target identification, seeking novel targets not only from within the University of Oxford, but across the UK and globally alongside our partner Institutes at the University of Cambridge and UCL. At Oxford we are taking a dual approach. On the one hand, we are interested in hearing from academics who have identified new molecular targets to explore. These targets do not have to be already fully validated with small molecule ligands. Rather, we encourage dialogue at a stage where a mechanism of action has been elucidated through molecular techniques and genetic manipulation.
The second approach employs phenotypic screening. The Target Discovery Institute at Oxford hosts both the Alzheimer’s Research UK Oxford Drug Discovery Institute and the UK National Phenotypic Screening Centre and we are planning to use a phenotypic screening approach to identify molecules and targets that impact key pathogenic pathways in dementias. This approach has the advantage of not relying on a pre-selected single drug target and we welcome approaches by academics who have developed new assay formats.
Why academic drug discovery?
Academic drug discovery has gained traction over recent years and the pharmaceutical industry is no longer the sole point of call for target development and lead optimisation. Nearly a fifth of drugs recently approved by the EMA originated from academic and publicly-funded drug discovery programmes, and we’ve seen particular successes in the field of oncology. Dementia is a huge area of unmet clinical need and one that we can tackle by uniting the deep disease area knowledge of academia with the broad drug discovery expertise of the Alzheimer’s research UK Drug Discovery Alliance.
The Oxford Drug Discovery Institute will consider all target rationales, however, we wish to capitalise on Oxford’s technical and neuroscience strengths. We are fortunate to be located on a campus with particularly strong platforms in structural biology (Structural Genomics Consortium), proteomics, high content screening, chemical biology (each in the Target Discovery Institute), patient derived stem cells (StemBANCC) and translational neuroscience (Dementias Platform UK). The ambition is to bring these capabilities, together with the deep disease expertise in academic groups, to bear on the discovery of new therapeutic approaches for dementia.
Targets not incorporated into the portfolio of the Oxford Drug Discovery Institute could be considered by the other two institutes and there is a strong culture of collaboration and support across the Alliance.
Target identification – next steps
If you would like to have an informal discussion with our Chief Scientific Officer, John Davis, please get in touch. Alternatively, you can submit targets for consideration by the Oxford DDI, or the wider Drug Discovery Alliance, using a pro-forma.
The Oxford Drug Discovery Institute has particular strengths in biomarker discovery and the theme of companion biomarkers will run through the drug discovery pipeline; in the first instance to demonstrate target engagement and then for selection and stratification in clinical trials. The availability of biomarkers, as well as other experimental medicine parameters, will be part of decision making in target selection.
We will be operating a twin-track process whereby applicants submitting targets that do not get selected are helped to develop those targets prior to re-submission. Such help may include generation of assays and probe compounds.