Collaboration has always been essential in science, especially in the drug discovery sector. Innovation is often born out of applying ideas or theories in new ways to new challenges. In science, sharing ideas has always been important for groundbreaking breakthroughs and paradigm shifts. Sharing ideas allows scientists to solve problems faster, which is the essence of scientific breakthroughs.
Image Credit: Andrii Yalanskyi/Shutterstock.com
Drug discovery is a particularly demanding field of science. There are a vast number of molecules and drug targets to be explored. To establish new therapeutics, scientists must gather information on their ability to induce biological activity that is beneficial to treating disease. Because there are so many molecules with potential therapeutic benefits as well as many potential drug targets, and because the activity induced in a biological organism by a novel therapeutic is complex and often acts on numerous pathways, predicting how a novel therapeutic or target may behave is challenging. Scientists do not want to waste time and money putting new drugs through rigorous clinical trials that fail due to efficacy or safety issues.
Collaboration has helped reduce the time and resources needed to develop effective new drugs. Huge databases have been established to store information on drug molecules and potential targets so that knowledge can be shared between research groups across the globe. Additionally, research teams often work together to create one team with a wide range of expertise, as well as multiple perspectives of the problem being worked on.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of this kind of collaboration in the drug discovery sector. The life-saving drugs and vaccinations developed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic would not have been possible without collaboration. We discuss some examples of important collaboration in drug discovery below.
Oxford University collaborate with AstraZeneca to create the COVID-19 vaccine
The pandemic turned many pharmaceutical companies into household names. The general population has become more informed about the workings of the pharmaceutical industry than ever. AstraZeneca, BioNTech, Moderna, and Pfizer are all commonly known among the population due to their work in developing life-saving vaccines.
The first of these to begin work on a vaccine in the UK was AstraZeneca, which collaborated with Oxford University, finalizing their agreement in April 2020, just three months after the first case of COVID-19 was recorded in the country. In the wake of the pandemic, the UK government launched the Vaccines Taskforce, established to help find, test, and deliver a COVID-19 vaccine.
The collaboration between the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca resulted in rapid development and tested of the vaccine in clinical trials. By November 2020, data from Phase III trials were being released, showing the efficacy of the team’s vaccine. The collaboration leveraged the expertise of both institutions, AstraZeneca for its pharmaceutical knowledge, manufacturing, and distribution capabilities and Oxford University for its vaccinology expertise.
It is estimated that the vaccine successfully reduced the risk of hospitalization in those 80 years or older who contracted the virus by 73%. Additionally, it is believed that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine prevented more than 35,000 hospitalizations in those aged 65 and older.
Image Credit: Dimitris Barletis/Shutterstock.com
Pfizer and Beam collaborate to treat a range of rare diseases
Recently, Pfizer announced that it would be collaborating with Beam Therapeutics, a biotechnology company with expertise in precision genetic medicines, to embark on a four-year research project to develop medicines for a range of rare diseases.
The collaboration will utilize Pfizer’s experience in drug development, particularly for managing programs involving messenger RNA (mRNA), lipid nanoparticles (LNP), and gene therapy, alongside Beam’s experience in base editing and mRNA/LNP delivery technologies. The research aims to advance transformative therapies for patients living with rare genetic diseases.
Following recent developments from Beam’s capabilities in precision genetic medicine, Pfizer teamed up with the industry leaders to create potentially transformative base editing programs for diseases for which there are currently significant unmet treatment needs.
Pfizer and BioNTech collaborate to create the first mRNA-based shingles vaccine
Pfizer also recently announced the agreement of its third partnership with BioNTech this January. The pharmaceutical company will be teaming up with the next generation immunotherapy company to accelerate the development of an improved vaccine for shingles, a painful infectious disease that is, in rare cases, fatal and affects one out of three at some point in their life in the US. Clinical trials with the novel vaccine are planned to begin in the second half of 2022.
Collaboration in drug discovery will continue to be important
Collaboration in drug discovery will continue to be vital to the success of the field. Recent successes with the development of COVID-19 treatment and vaccines that have come out of collaborative efforts have highlighted the benefit of collaboration – which will likely inspire future projects.