Chas Bountra RB2015 Keynote
SENS RESEARCH FOUNDATION RELEASES KEYNOTE VIDEO HIGHLIGHTING THE NEED TO TRANSFORM THE DISCOVERY OF NEW MEDICINES
The University of Oxford’s Chas Bountra Outlines a New Approach for Developing More Novel, Effective and Affordable Medicines, More Quickly
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — October 19, 2015 — The SENS Research Foundation has released a video featuring a keynote address by Chas Bountra, Chief Scientist at the SGC, University of Oxford, as delivered at its recent Rejuvenation Biotechnology Conference in August 2015. The keynote highlights society’s need to completely transform the manner in which new medicines are discovered. Bountra asserts that while patients want more novel, more effective, and more affordable medicines more quickly, the reality is that drug discovery today is too costly, too risky and too slow. The video of Bountra’s keynote, Transforming the Discovery of New Medicines, is available to view now.
The Rejuvenation Biotechnology Conference gathers experts across research, academia, industry, policy, finance and regulatory fields to share ideas and the latest research and developments on diseases impacting the aging population on a global scale.
Bountra’s keynote provides an overview of how new medicines are commonly discovered and researched today, citing organizational and scientific challenges as the causes behind a process that is slow, costly and risky. “One of the biggest problems we have today is that many academic groups, biotechs and pharmaceutical companies are all working on the same few ideas, and they do this in parallel, and in secret,” according to Bountra. “There are probably 20 companies across the world right now, doing the same project in secret, and if one of them fails, the other 19 will fail…and because many companies don’t publish their data or don't publish it quickly enough or in enough detail, this is a waste of money, careers and a monumental waste of patients.”
At a scientific level, one of the challenges is not understanding the root cause of many chronic diseases such as schizophrenia, of which arguably there are many tens of sub-types. For such chronic diseases, Bountra says we need better biomarkers: “You can’t ask a patient with depression, ‘Are you less depressed than you were yesterday?’” Also, medicines work markedly different in animals than in people: History has shown that many drug candidates have exhibited efficacy in animal models, but few of these have translated into benefits in early phase patient studies. And finally, there are medicines that are effective and are therefore widely used across the world, but scientists do not know their mode or site of action: “If you don’t know how existing drugs work, then how are you going to design better ones?”
Bountra continues that the pharmaceutical industry is understandably trying to reduce costs and risks and thereby improve ROI. As a result, many large companies are increasingly relying on academia and biotechs for early stage discovery, buying when possible more late-stage de-risked assets and removing themselves completely from areas that are extremely difficult such as psychiatry.
In light of these factors, Bountra is developing – and succeeding with – a new approach to drug discovery at the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine. The group works with a consortium of labs in Canada, US, Brazil, Sweden and Germany, collectively called the SGC. He outlines key initiatives that are accelerating the development of new medicines:
- Pooling resources – Because there is high risk associated with this business, it is unrealistic to think that any one organization, group or individual can succeed alone. The SGC is working with a consortium of 10 large pharmaceutical companies, benefitting from their financial resources as well as their expertise in medicinal chemistry, screening, and drug discovery.
- Crowdsourcing and transparency – the group freely shares its outputs (data, knowledge, reagents) with the academic, pharmaceutical and biotech world because such transparency creates trust, facilitates collaboration, and catalyzes science and drug discovery. This form of crowdsourcing science is opening up new areas of biology and disease understanding.
- Immediate disclosure – Everything that the SGC does is immediately released to the world, disclosing its data, knowledge and new reagents (high quality tools for early target discovery). Making these assets publicly available helps to reduce unnecessary replication and wastage.
The keynote concludes that today’s method of early drug discovery involves too much secrecy, competition, and duplication. “We’re trying to bring together multiple clinicians, academic groups, pharmaceutical companies, patient groups, and biotech companies,” said Bountra. “We are building a new ecosystem to generate more novel and more effective medicines, more quickly, and hopefully medicines that are more affordable. Together we have a massive opportunity to translate, commercialize and use our entrepreneurial skills to try and benefit billions of patients across the world. All of us, regrettably, will be patients one day.”
View the video Transforming the Discovery of New Medicines on the SENS Research Foundation web site at: http://www.sens.org/videos/transforming-discovery-new-medicines
About Chas Bountra, PhD, SGC Oxford Chief Scientist
Chas Bountra is Professor of Translational Medicine in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine and Associate Member of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Oxford. He is also a Visiting Professor in Neuroscience and Mental Health at Imperial College, London. Bountra is an invited expert on several government and charitable research funding bodies, and an advisor for many academic, biotech and pharma drug discovery programs. He has given more than 300 invited lectures and in 2012, he was voted one of the “top innovators in the industry.”
About SENS Research Foundation (SRF)
SENS Research Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that works to research, develop, and promote comprehensive regenerative medicine solutions for the diseases of aging. SRF is focused on a damage repair paradigm for treating the diseases of aging, which it advances through scientific research, advocacy, and education. SENS Research Foundation supports research projects at universities and institutes around the world with the goal of curing such age-related diseases as macular degeneration, heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. Educating the public and training researchers to support a growing regenerative medicine field are also major endeavors of the organization that are being accomplished though advocacy campaigns and educational programs. For more information, visit www.sens.org.