IT TAKES AN AVERAGE OF TEN-YEARS AND TWO-BILLION DOLLARS TO DEVELOP A DRUG -- FROM THE RESEARCH LAB TO THE PHARMACY SHELF.
KPBS HEALTH REPORTER SUSAN MURPHY SHOWS US HOW LOCAL SCIENTESTS ARE USING ROBOTS TO SPEED UP THE PROCESS.
HULL: 1:3:43 If you come over here, this is our full system.
Inside a biomedical lab in Torrey Pines, robots are working around the clock (nat?) to discover medicines to potentially treat diseases like cancer and brain disorders. (more nats?)
CALIBR SCRIPPS RESEARCH
HULL: 1:04:44 and essentially we will test a hundred-thousand compounds, or hundreds of thousands of compounds, or a million compounds against this disease model to try to find potential drugs, or at least a starting point for potential drugs for a disease.
Mitchell Hull is a principal investigator with the California Institute for Biomedical Research, or Calibr -- it's a new drug discovery division of Scripps Research.
1:4:44 HULL What we try to do here is work on multiple targets for a disease.
The two nonprofits recently merged in an effort to bring life-saving treatments to patients much faster. It essentially puts researchers and drug discovery experts….along with robots ...under one roof.
The robotic machines with long mechanical arms shuffle small cartridges carrying disease models to various equipment. The plastic plates are pulled from a stack one at a time and tested against an expansive library of drug compounds.
1:40:26 And it uses a pulse of sound to transfer a very small quantity of liquid, usually a potential drug in our case.
The robots work on dozens of diseases at any given time. Hull says they can take months or even years off of the normally arduous process of developing new medicines.
1:13:37 HULL: We're dealing with very small volumes that a human can't transfer. The robots are also more ex act obviously and they're also faster, they can run 24/7.
Bringing a drug from the laboratory bench to a patient's bedside is typically done by for-profit companies. It takes an average of 10 years and millions, or billions, of dollars for a drug to make the journey from discovery to the marketplace. And It's a monumental task for nonprofit researchers, who often have to build their own foundation of fundraising to move their idea forward. But now at Scripps, the process is streamlined.
CALIBR SCRIPPS RESEARCH
1:14:42 YOUNG: My group focuses on the translation of antibody therapeutics and cellular therapies for cancer.
Travis Young is vice president of biologics with Scripps Calibr. His team is preparing to launch two clinical trials this year, : One is for prostate cancer and another for lymphoma.
1:15:16 YOUNG: And what we're doing there is we're genetically engineering a patient's own cells and endowing them with the capacity to go and find tumor in the patient's body, and in a way repurposing the patient's immune system in order to tackle the cancer.
Young says the projects demonstrate the ability of a nonprofit to overcome the bottleneck of drug discovery. (Nats)
1:18:33 YOUNG: So it's a great example of taking an idea in the lab and moved it forward through these different stages of development…
Scripps' new model also includes a funding plan. Revenue generated from successful drug developments will be reinvested into more research. Matt Tremblay is Scripps Chief Operating Officer.
3:11:35 TREMBLAY: One thing that's different from a nonprofit versus a commercial developer: If we create a drug and we develop revenue from that, we reinvest all of that revenue into further research…...which creates this evergreen ecosystem for developing new medicines.
That ecosystem is attracting attention from pharmaceutical experts, philanthropists, foundation leaders across the nation, including Brian Fiske of the Michal J Fox Foundation, which supports research into a Parkinson's cure.
MICHAEL J FOX FOUNDATION
FISKE: We're always looking for innovative ways of accelerating the whole drug development challenge.
Fiske saw some of those innovations at a recent symposium hosted by Scripps
3:23:41 FISKE: Coming to a meeting like this gives me an opportunity to one, really engage with the scientific community doing the hard work and then I can kind of bring those ideas back to my team
Scripps Research currently has ten drug candidates in varying stages of development. Meanwhile, Mitchell Hull and the robots have more in the pipeline.
1:05:20 HULL: We work on a lot of neglected disease here, infectious disease and tropical disease.
With 1.7 million people expected to be diagnosed with a new case of cancer this year, and hundreds of thousands more afflicted with infectious or neurological diseases, the discovery of life-saving drugs can't come soon enough.
Susan Murphy, KPBS News.