NEWMEDS partnership will focus on developing animal models and investigating genetic influences on drug response.

A newly established international industry-academic consortium is to receive funding from the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) to develop new models and methods for the discovery of treatments for schizophrenia and depression. Led by H. Lundbeck and Kings College London, the NEWMEDS (novel methods leading to new medications in depression and schizophrenia) project plans on partnering with major academic institutions in Europe and Israel as well as global pharma companies like AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen Pharmaceutica, Novartis, Orion, Pfizer, Roche, Servier, and Wyeth.

The research will focus on developing new animal models for the identification of treatments for schizophrenia. It will also examine how genetic variations influence drug response. Additionally, the project aims to develop new approaches that will allow shorter and more efficient clinical trials.

The consortium believes there are currently a number of major bottlenecks preventing the translation of knowledge and research findings relating to schizophrenia and depression to the clinic. These include a lack of accurate animal models for drug discovery, a scarcity of tools and tests in healthy volunteers to provide early efficacy data, and the reliance in clinical trials on symptom-based diagnostic and statistical manual categories.

“While the biology of psychiatry has made remarkable progress, we have been slow in converting that into innovative and new medications,” points out Shitij Kapur, M.D., at King’s College London’s Institute of Psychiatry. “This is a joint challenge for academia and industry. NEWMEDS is a joint response. It is not only scientifically innovative, but it is also an innovation in creating a cluster of nearly 50 scientists from both sides to work together to achieve a common goal of better, safer, and more effective medicines more quickly.”

Tine Bryan Stensbl, M.D., divisional director for discovery pharmacology research at Lundbeck, adds, “NEWMEDS embodies a novel collaborative effort where companies join forces and together with academia answer scientific questions in a precompetitive environment that will form the basis of tomorrow’s medicines. This joint effort will provide novel insights that undoubtedly will be to the benefit of the patients suffering from schizophrenia and depression.”

The IMI, which will provide funding to NEWMEDS, is public-private partnership between the pharma industry’s European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations and the EU. The initiative’s goal is to promote and support Europe’s position in drug discovery and development. The IMI’s overall funding scheme has a budget of €2 billion, half of which will be provided by the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme and half by EFPIA member companies.

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