Speed and Safety in Drug Discovery  Discussion meeting 26 November 2008 9am – 5pm The Royal Society 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AG
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Speakers' Abstracts

Dr Robert A Coleman

Drug Discovery and Development Tomorrow: Changing the Mindset

Not only are there still many human diseases for which better medicines are required, but it is also a commercial reality that in order to remain viable, the pharma industry must continue to identify new drugs and get them to market.  Furthermore, in our enlightened age, it is essential that such medicines must not only be effective, but also cause no harm.  There is no doubt that the current hurdles to be  cleared by any new drug are ever higher and greater in number.  All this presents a huge challenge to those involved in drug discovery and development, not only because the vast majority of new drug programmes end in failure, but even for those that successfully make it to the market, many are later found to cause unacceptable side effect in long-term use or in a subset of patients, leading to commercially devastating restrictions to use or even total withdrawal from sale.  This failure rate has inevitably led to questions being asked about the methods being used in the discovery/development process.  Despite their very obvious shortcomings, these methods still rely heavily on the use of experimental animals as non-human surrogates.  While there is much scientifically- and ethically-based opposition to the use of experimental animals in the drug industry, it is unlikely that drug companies will truly minimise (let alone abandon) their use until they are convinced that there exist more reliable, accessible alternatives.  The challenge therefore is to convince those responsible for running drug discovery and development programmes that valid alternative methods exist, that they are economically viable, and that they are more reliable than those currently in use.  The primary purpose of the present conference is therefore to enable experts in the provision of alternative approaches to drug discovery and development to present their technologies for review.  A secondary purpose is to introduce a novel initiative, involving an evaluation of the efficiency of such technologies to identify opportunities and shortcomings in new drugs by conducting a head-to-head comparison with more traditionally used approaches.