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Screening Together:The Benefits of Academia-industrial Collaborations

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The benefits of academia-industrial collaborations

Given the current financial climate, many academic screening centres are receiving reduced government funding and are coming under increasing pressure to cut costs. In this blog, we look at how fostering collaboration and knowledge sharing between academia and industry might offer some solutions to these growing problems. In doing so, we'll hopefully provide some light at the end of the tunnel for all the screening labs looking for new funding sources and research ideas.

Targeting Neglected Diseases

By their very nature, academic screening labs are relatively free to investigate any disease they choose, without significant influence from financial motivations. As such, they have the flexibility and adaptability to screen for drug candidates that Big Pharma would consider economically unviable, such as those targeting conditions affecting small patient populations or diseases associated with developing countries. Increasingly, these so called 'Orphan Diseases' are being targeted by academic labs in partnership with Big Pharma. This collaborative model is being supported by a number of programs instigated by the FDA, such as the 'Orphan Drug Designation' program, which provides institutions and companies with access to additional funding and incentives to target these conditions. This, coupled with some recent technological advancements and innovative thinking, has enabled researchers to make progress investigating many conditions that were previously thought to be 'undruggable. 

At SELECTBIO's upcoming Academic Screening Workshop a whole session is dedicated to this subject. Professor Richard Neubig, from the University of Michigan will be talking about how he is reversing the traditional screening paradigm to uncover compounds that are effective against human scleroderma dermal fibroblasts. Whereas standard screening usually involves the identification of a molecular target for the disease first and then screening a number of compounds for their activity against that marker, Dr Neubig is identifying compounds that have activity against the cells themselves first without knowing what the molecular marker is.

Fostering Collaboration

Most importantly, we believe that focusing on collaboration and knowledge sharing within the screening industry is one of the best ways to overcome the current challenges within the field. The time has come for industry and academia to work together to innovate and catalyse translational research. That's why the format of the Academic Screening Workshop includes two full afternoons of panel discussions, enabling attendees to pose questions and start discussions with some of the industry's leading lights from academia, industry and equipment vendors.

Developing New Assays

Particular focus should be given to the development of strategic partnerships and collaborations that could lead to advancements and breakthroughs in new assay development. This area is of vital importance if we are to make the path towards new clinical entities easier and more cost effective. For example, the increasing use and importance of RNAi screening, a technique that enables the dissection and elucidation of complex biological processes by silencing gene expression, has the potential to uncover disease targets and aid therapeutic development. However, the technique still requires significant assay development, especially when it comes to pooled RNAi screening approaches in complex cell model systems. This is proving frustrating for a number of laboratories and screening centres, because despite its obvious potential, RNAi screening has yet to deliver the meaningful results that its potential merits.
Find out more at the Academic Screening Workshop 2013
Organised in collaboration with Dr Hakim Djaballah of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the Academic Screening Workshop is into its 3rd year of providing a forum for delegates to discuss and share their experiences on all things drug discovery.

If you would like to be kept updated on this year's event, then why not signup to the eNewsletter.

Alternatively, you can register right now by visiting the event sign up page.