The new Centre for Therapeutics Discovery (CTD) set up in the UK by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and its commercialisation arm, MRC Technology (MRCT), to fast-track the discovery and development of novel drugs has issued its first call for targets to academic researchers.

The CTD wants to collaborate with scientists on drug discovery projects targeting diseases where there is significant unmet need. The call relates both to small-molecule drugs and therapeutic antibodies, reflecting the MRCT’s expertise in antibody humanisation technology. Having this capability alongside small-molecule drug discovery resources “makes us unique”, the Centre says.

MRCT chief executive officer Dr David Tapolczay described the initiative as a “fantastic opportunity for academics to have a dedicated centre with which to collaborate and progress their science to deliver tangible clinical benefit”.

The potential benefits to academics, the MRC noted, include access to tool compounds and reagents (including monoclonal antibodies) for further target validation and characterisation studies, in silico (computer-based) screening, medicinal chemistry and ADMET (Absorption, Distribution, Metabolism, Excretion, and Toxicity) testing.

In the small molecule arena, the CTD’s medical chemistry staff are “extensively pharma-trained, which is not the norm for academic-based drug discovery, where most other groups have been built primarily from academic-based chemists”, the MRC pointed out.

Participating academics can also take advantage of the Centre’s hybridoma production capability and its extensive antibody engineering and expression expertise, as well as the core CTD antibody humanisation skills, it added.

Moreover, scientists can tap into the MRC’s recently announced Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme and “collaborate with a high-quality drug discovery capability whilst retaining existing IP [intellectual property] ownership”.

The MRC announced last April that it was setting up the Centre for Therapeutics Discovery in London to build on the existing work of the MRCT Drug Discovery Group and expand “current capability and capacity to provide the UK with a national drug discovery resource with the critical mass to progress high quality projects towards clinical benefit”.

This will help to position the UK at the forefront of academic-based drug discovery worldwide, creating “a Centre of Excellence that pharma companies will want to link to and hence maintain a pharma presence in the UK”, the MRC commented.