May 2012

Lilly-NIH partnership aims to revolutionize drug-development pipeline

The National Institutes of Health and Eli Lilly and Co. last month announced a joint venture to develop a public resource to create a more effective drug-discovery program. Spurred by various challenges in getting an experimental candidate approved and to the clinic, those heading up this public–private partnership say they hope the results will help in the development of novel treatments for some of our most common diseases.

This collaboration— which will run over the next 18 months— will involve teams from NIH’s recently established National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences and Lilly Research Laboratories. It will open the doors of the NIH Chemical Genomics Center’s Pharmaceutical Collection of 3,800 approved and investigational compounds suitable for high-throughput screening. Access to this collection will allow the Lilly group to profile comprehensively the compounds’ biological activities through its Phenotypic Drug Discovery panel of assays constructed to model complex pathways of various human diseases.

For example, the anti-angiogenesis assay module is used to investigate the potential for compounds to inhibit the growth of new blood vessels. This automated test utilizes a co-culture of endothelial and adipose stem cells. The addition of a compound that inhibits growth of the endothelial progenitor cells while not harming the adipose-derived adult stem cells would be considered a drug of interest and would form the starting point for further experiments, collaborations and clinical trials.

If the partnership finds an approved medicine could be a possible treatment for a different disease, it will reach out to whoever owns the compound to pursue additional studies. Alternatively, results with investigational drugs from high-throughput screens might inspire generatation of new drug candidates. “This initiative is a great example of how we can collectively leverage unique capabilities from the public and private sectors toward our shared goal of advancing science and improving patients’ lives,” said Alan D. Palkowitz, Lilly’s vice president of discovery chemistry research and technologies. Those interested in the progress of the venture can check in on the results for free at

NIH_bamfordConnor Bamford ( is a Ph.D student at Queen’s University in Belfast, U.K.

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