Research

Revolutionising Drug Discovery

Revolutionising Drug Discovery

A Newcastle University spin-out hopes to make headway on diseases such as cancer by taking a new approach to drug discovery.

‌Computational drug discovery firm e-Therapeutics was founded in 2002 and was listed on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market in 2007. By 2013, it was the eighth-largest pharmaceutical/biotechnology company in the AIM by market capitalisation, with a valuation of £92.7 million.

University research played an important role in this patented approach, including Professor Anil Wipat’s work on workflow development and the study of network analysis, and application led by Professor Peter Andras. The Computing Science team worked alongside experts in the University’s Institute of Neuroscience.

The aim was to develop an accurate understanding of the effect and impact new drugs will have on cells before clinical trials even begin.

For decades, neuro-anatomists have used tracer chemicals to highlight the neural connections between different areas of the brain. This technique is both invasive and expensive and the complexity it revealed was very difficult to interpret.

Professor Anil Wilpat
Photo of Professor Anil Wilpat

Technology predicts the effect of drugs

In 1999, collaboration between colleagues at Newcastle University developed computer methods for integrating the very large quantities of data, and new analyses that showed how brain systems were organised and which parts of them were vulnerable.

The company’s patented ‘network pharmacology’ technology predicts the effects of chemical interventions on proteins in cells and this is now being used to discover new drugs for the treatment of cancer and degenerative diseases.

Using algorithms to map the networks of interaction between parasitic bacteria and host cells, the technology is used to select a drug which can target the most crucial proteins in that network, and thus disrupt the disease process.

New drugs now being trialled

An anti-cancer drug (ETS2101) and an anti-depression drug (ETS6013) are currently in clinical trials.

The company believes its method will be effective in tackling complex diseases. It could also enable companies to find new uses for drugs that are already on the market, rather than invest large amounts in new ones. Drugs based on new chemistry cost £1.2 billion to develop on average, and can take 10 to 15 years to reach the market.

Since 2008, research and development spending by the company has topped £11m, and 20 highly-skilled staff are employed across two sites in Oxfordshire and Newcastle.

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Contact Information

Professor Anil Wipat
Email: anil.wipat@ncl.ac.uk
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 8213