Eli Lilly has built on the Phenotypic Drug Discovery Initiative (PD(2)) it launched in June 2009 by introducing an expanded open-innovation platform designed to identify new molecules in the fields of oncology, endocrinology, neuroscience and cardiovascular diseases as well as multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

The Open Innovation Drug Discovery Platform consolidates the  PD(2) model, which involves a secure web portal where scientists from outside the company can deposit promising molecules and have them tested for free. While intellectual property rights remain with the external scientist, Lilly has first rights to negotiate a collaboration or licensing agreement with the drug-candidate source.

There are three components to the expanded platform:

-     PD(2), which will continue to screen molecules submitted by external scientists in complex cellular assays, with the goal of identifying potential new medicines acting through novel mechanisms of action or pathways.

-     TD(2), or target drug discovery, a new platform for screening submitted molecules with potential to interact with known disease targets.

-     Screening molecules for potential activity against MDR-TB, a form of tuberculosis resistant to at least two first-line TB medicines, as part of the not-for-profit Lilly TB Drug Discovery Initiative.

As such, Lilly noted, the Open Innovation Drug Discovery Platform will not only help to bolster the company’s R&D pipeline in areas of internal strategic focus and expertise but will provide a bridge between external scientists and the TB Drug Discovery Initiative, which includes leading stakeholders such as the US Infectious Disease Research Institute and the National Institutes of Health.

Design tools

The secure website at openinnovation.Lilly.com created under the expanded programme offers proprietary computational and informatics tools to help scientists design and select their molecules.

Once a scientist deposits a molecule on the website and it meets certain specified criteria, Lilly will test it free of charge using a series of biological assay panels that evaluate the molecule for its uniqueness and potential for optimisation into a drug candidate. Comprehensive data reports are then provided to the researcher submitting the molecule.

In the case of the cancer, endocrine, cardiovascular and neuroscience screenings, Lilly will retain first rights to negotiate a collaboration or licensing agreement with the submitter.

If no such agreement is reached, the external scientist will retain ‘no-strings-attached’ ownership of the data and can use it for publications or grant proposals, or can further refine his or her hypotheses about the molecule’s drug potential.

With screening for activity against MDR-TB screening, any promising data could lead to a collaboration between the submitting organisation and the Lilly TB Drug Discovery Initiative.

Multiple superhighways

Alan Palkowitz, Lilly’s vice president of discovery chemistry research and technologies, described the Open Innovation Drug Discovery initiative as “a platform consisting of multiple superhighways all pointed towards the final destination of discovering novel medicines that we believe have the potential to improve patients’ lives”.