Birmingham, UK, Drug Discovery Hub created

University of Birmingham

The Birmingham Drug Discovery Hub (BDDH) has been set up to help University of Birmingham researchers to overcome the ‘valley of death’, where projects fail due to the funding gap between original research and commercial investment.

The hub has attracted more than £4 ($4.9) million in industry funding, grants and industry awards, on the back of just £0.2m investment from the University’s Dynamic Investment Fund (DIF).

The University has also appointed a Chair of Drug Discovery, Professor Ruth Roberts, with the mission of leading and integrating drug discovery across campus.

The approach defined by the BDDH has two key elements: the evaluation and management of projects by experts in drug discovery and development, and targeted resources to create a diverse, de-risked portfolio of projects that are ready for investment.

The portfolio covers projects from every part of the University which are fed into the BDDH pipeline following identification by BDDH, University of Birmingham Enterprise, the University’s Business Engagement & Research Impact and Translational Research teams, as well as from outreach events and directly from academics.

Identifying gaps in the data

A bespoke team is assembled for each project, involving university as well as external subject matter experts. This is followed by a systematic ‘target-chemistry-patient’ evaluation, which identifies key risks and mitigation measures, and flushes out gaps in the data that are required before a project can enter clinical trials.

These gaps and concerns are then addressed with small, enabling investments (£5,000-£50,000) from the DIF, to fund work such as computational modelling, early chemistry or evaluation of unwanted safety risks.

Professor Roberts said: “The BDDH model tackles, head-on, the biggest challenges that arise in academic drug discovery: lack of funding between basic research and investment-ready research; lack of expertise in universities to assess value and identify data gaps; and the issue of scale in university research, which often does not meet the critical mass of expertise needed for clinical translation.”

Diana Spencer, Senior Digital Content Editor, DDW

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