Eli Lilly has launched a unique new drug discovery initiative to reach a much deeper pool of new compounds discovered by external researchers around the globe, which could foster new collaborations and speed up development of promising candidates.

The novel initiative, known as the Lilly Phenotypic Drug Discovery Initiative, or PD2 (pronounced PD-squared), should help the US drugmaker gain access to “an untapped source of ideas and compounds in the greater scientific community that could ultimately impact patients' lives following further evaluation and development”, explained Alan Palkowitz, vice president of discovery chemistry research and technologies at Lilly.

Under the new scheme, the company has constructed a web portal in which researchers can securely deposit compounds for assessment of their therapeutic potential. If after initial computational testing certain specified criteria are met, a physical sample can by submitted by the researchers for biological evaluation.

Lilly will then provide the researcher with a data report containing a complete biological profile of the compound across four assay modules - Alzheimer's disease, cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis. All testing under the initiative is free of charge, and the intellectual property rights remain with the researcher or institution submitting the compound.

In return, Lilly has first dibs on exclusively negotiating a collaboration or licensing deal with the researcher/institution for any compounds it chooses to explore further, but if an agreement is not reached within a specified timeframe the submitter of the compounds is granted “no-strings-attached ownership” of the data report.

The move should enable Lilly to get much closer to “top global research talent, novel therapeutic hypotheses and rich chemical diversity to amplify and leverage Lilly's work and expertise in these areas”, it said. And according to William Chin, vice president of discovery research and clinical investigation at the company, “open collaboration with a network of scientists will create new venues to deepen our understanding of complex biological processes and eventually to discover novel therapeutics that benefit patients”.