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UC Davis Health System

UC Davis Health System

Web portal project for drug research information gets data boost

UC Davis leading research consortium that seeks new uses for developed drugs

researcher working on computer
The Pharmaceutical Assets Portal will allow scientists to learn about existing drugs that could be used as cures for diseases and conditions other than the one they were originally intended to target.

Scientists know there are drugs that have been developed, tested and found lacking for one disease that might help patients with a completely different condition. But the trick for researchers has always been finding out about them.

While the National Institutes of Health and the pharmaceutical industry maintain portfolios of investigational and FDA-approved compounds, information and access to drugs that are no longer in active development remain difficult to obtain.

Now, an academic consortium led by UC Davis is creating a new collaborative approach, called the Pharmaceutical Assets Portal, which will allow scientists to learn about existing drugs that could be used as cures for diseases and conditions other than the one they were originally intended to target. It is a process known as drug repositioning or repurposing.

"Our project could have far-reaching benefits for patients everywhere," said Lars Berglund, professor of medicine, associate dean for research and director of the UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center. "This portal could open doors for breakthroughs in research, allowing patients and their doctors to benefit from research results sooner because important drugs and their new uses can be identified more efficiently."

Dr. Berglund"This portal could open doors for breakthroughs in research, allowing patients and their doctors to benefit from research results sooner because important drugs and their new uses can be identified more efficiently."
— Lars Berglund, director of the CTSC

Plans to establish the portal took an important step forward recently with the receipt of a set of data critical for identifying researchers with the complementary expertise in particular diseases or biological processes. This information, or data-set, groups scientists around areas of research interest and then matches them with specific genes, diseases, compounds and cell types. Such groups would have an expanded ability to identify new uses for "shelved" pharmaceuticals. By linking that data with information from pharmaceutical companies, the consortium hopes to advance existing drugs by repositioning them for new treatment targets.

The importance of repositioning experimental drugs continues to grow because of their high cost of pharmaceutical research and development and the time it takes to make them available for clinical use. According to the Government Accountability Office, only about one out of every 10,000 chemical compounds initially tested for their potential as new medicines is found safe and effective and eventually approved by the FDA. Spending on new drug development rose to a record $58.8 billion in 2007, and it can take years for a newly developed drug to reach patients. The advantage of repositioning a drug is that it may already have passed a significant number of safety tests, which allows it to bypass much of the cost and time needed to bring a drug to market.

Learn more about the CTSC

The UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center is part of a national consortium that is transforming how scientific research is both conducted and converted into medical treatments for patients. Launched with a $24.8-million grant from the National Institutes of Health, the center is a founding member of the CTSA consortium. Together, these hubs of innovation aim to create a new framework for scientists and the communities they serve, one that transcends old boundaries and marshals our collective brainpower toward a common goal.

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The Pharmaceutical Assets Portal project was initiated by UC Davis' Clinical and Translational Science Center in Sacramento. It is being developed by an academic consortium that includes the University of Washington, Oregon Health and Sciences University, University of Pennsylvania and the University of Chicago. The institutional team is collaborating with a number of industry partners, including the Virginia-based technology company, Biovista, which provided initial data for the portal. It also is working with a variety of pharmaceutical companies to obtain corporate perspectives on the project and advice about existing commercial drug databases. For more information about the portal site, visit www.ctsapharmaportal.org.

The UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center is part of a national consortium, funded through Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA), that is improving how biomedical research is conducted across the nation. Its goals are to reduce the time it takes for research discoveries to become treatments for patients, as well as to train the next generation of clinical researchers. The CTSA program is led by the National Center for Research Resources at the National Institutes of Health.