Due to popular demand, former blog guests Bruce Bloom, and Clare Thibodeaux from Cures Within Reach have returned with another post. This time, they explain how they bring researchers, older drugs, and new funders together to come up with new solutions for patients. Disclosure: I am a member of their Advisory Board, and think this concept is brilliant!
Ways to repurpose existing drugs, devices and nutriceuticals can offer powerful “new” treatments for diseases that desperately need them. A recent blog post (“How to Solve Diseases with Existing Drugs”) talked about the power of repurposing research. So why doesn’t more research with available drugs get done?
Research with existing drugs faces financial barriers
Many repurposed drugs are widely available in inexpensive generic form. While this is great news for patients, it creates a challenge for companies. This means the drugs are off patent, so companies don’t want to invest in new clinical trials that may not give an acceptable return on investment (ROI).
Other money sources are needed to fill the gap. Sometimes, groups that focus on patient outcomes over financial gain (known as philanthropy), provide funds for early clinical trials to learn if the approach is promising (called proof of concept). Cures Within Reach is an example of this – we are a global non-profit dedicated to repurposing research and has funded over 50 repurposing research projects since 2010.
But money is not the only problem
Most funders need to know where to find the most promising projects. Researchers need exposure for their ideas that might transform patient lives. Cures Within Reach saw the need to connect funders, researchers, doctors, patients and their advocates, and industry. That is why we created CureAcceleratorTM.
“We desperately needed a place where smart and like-minded people could share their ideas and uncover new medical solutions for the more than 8,000 unsolved diseases affecting over 500 million people worldwide.”
– Dr. Bruce Bloom, President and Chief Science Officer of Cures Within Reach
A CureAccelerator Hub
CureAccelerator was created in 2015 through a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is the world’s only online platform dedicated to repurposing research. Following a successful 2015 challenge called 100 Projects in 100 Days, these global projects – from cancer to autoimmune to neurological to rare diseases – have a home on CureAccelerator. In addition, CureAccelerator has posted 10 Requests for Proposals (RFPs) from various funders to date, with an expected 19 total funded projects by the end of 2016.
The CureAccelerator community is nearly 1,000 users strong. Most members are researchers, and funders, but company representatives and patient advocates are also strong members.
We want more doctors to use CureAccelerator to share ways they use drugs to help their patients in diseases that need better treatments. This happens quite often – 1 of every 5 prescriptions (21%) written by doctors are for “off label” use.
Running small but robust clinical trials around “off label” prescription provides an important type of repurposing research. New improvements to CureAccelerator will offer doctors with a quick way to complete forms that will share their clinical observations on a peer-peer forum, and will support their repurposing research ideas.
Another 2017 goal provides a vibrant CureAccelerator discussion space where all users can post questions and comments about repurposing research and about CureAccelerator. The discussion threads are member-driven and topics can cover any aspect of repurposing. We see this Discussion section being especially valuable to patients and their advocates who want to share their voices about how repurposed therapies are (or are not) working for them.
CureAccelerator globally connects those who want new treatments
CureAccelerator can facilitate collaborations for repurposing. For example, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Cures Within Reach recently awarded joint grants to repurpose drugs for rare diseases:
- Project information and proposals were posted on CureAccelerator
- Independent Science Advisors in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom (UK) used CureAccelerator for the first stage of scientific review
CureAccelerator was also used to find potential projects for a pilot Social Impact Bond (SIB) to fund repurposing clinical trials in England (here is a podcast). SIBs can serve as a new economic engine by attracting impact investors who interested in combining return on investment with social good. Impact investors can be paid from healthcare savings generated from a portfolio of inexpensive generic drug repurposed treatments, instead of profits from drug sales.
Cures Within Reach is working with its partners in England – Findacure, Numbers For Good, Costello Medical and the British National Health Service – to test this concept. If SIBs are successful, they could provide a path to ongoing funding streams for repurposing research, with CureAccelerator providing a potential pool of projects.
We believe CureAccelerator is a powerful tool to advance repurposing research. Join us by registering as a user today, and help foster the repurposing revolution!