Professional Translational Research: a New Hybrid Paradigm in Early Drug Discovery

Early drug discovery (eDD) is undergoing a radical change with a strong trend of industry leaving and academia pushing into this field. Academia is a rich source of innovation for new therapeutic concepts and can contribute significant modules to drug discovery. However, most academic drug discovery initiatives lack the infrastructure and know-how for professional optimization of essential drug properties beyond potency, and successful direct collaboration with industry needs a substantial cultural change. Professional translational research centers (TRCs) are a new efficient paradigm to advance basic research results and hypotheses into industrial development and clinical application.

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TRCs act as facilitators and translators at the academia-industry interface, bringing together the strengths of both worlds and leveraging the high innovation potential of academia by using the robustness and efficiency of industry.
Essential requirements for successful translation of drug concepts from the bench towards the bedside with the involvement of a TRC include (i) fully integrated, professional in-house drug discovery expertise, (ii) open-mindedness and mediator qualities, (iii) close active collaboration with the academic principal investigators, (iv) high quality standards, and (v) collaboration with industry instead of competition. The main goals of TRCs are unequivocal validation/devalidation of scientific hypotheses and commercialization of assets generated together with the academic principal investigator. In addition, there are many more important deliverables such as provision of specific tool compounds and probes, publications, consultancy, and training.

Since there will be a continuous need for high quality eDD, TRCs should be based and advanced on long-term commitment and sustainability; they can become self-sustaining incubators based on shares in the revenues of the commercialized projects. In general, funding strategies for translation need to be revised and adapted to accommodate this new paradigm. TRCs will play an important role in future eDD generating multiple value for patients, society, and academia.

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Peter Nussbaumer

Managing Director at Lead Discovery Center GmbH, Lead Discovery Center GmbH

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