A couple of years ago a survey of academic drug discovery in the US (1) highlighted the fact that most of these efforts were at a very early stage of development. However, things have progressed. An interesting article in C&EN (2) presents the history of the drug discovery unit at Vanderbilt, one of the oldest and most successful of the academic ventures. It nicely shows how patient work at the basic level, rather than a rush to ‘translation” can eventually bear fruit. In this case it takes the form of AstraZeneca licensing the academic center’s work on small molecules for brain disorders such as schizophrenia.
The recent formation of an alliance of academic discovery groups should further facilitate progress (3 ).
(1) Frye S, Crosby M, Edwards T, Juliano R. (2011) US Academic Drug Discovery. Nat Rev Drug Discov. 10(6):409-10