Optibrium, Imperial College and DNDi to collaborate on drug development

The collaboration will provide MSc students with industry-relevant learning tools and pharma with a new pipeline of candidate compounds.

Optibrium has entered into a collaboration with Imperial College London and Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), a non-profit drug R&D organisation developing new treatments for neglected diseases.

Optibrium’s StarDrop software will be available to students at Imperial College studying MSci and MRes programmes in Medicinal Chemistry, as part of a collaborative project with DNDi to design new candidate compounds for Visceral Leishmaniasis.

Optibrium will also provide teaching on the application of software for drug discovery to these students. The collaboration is part of DNDi’s Open Synthesis Network, a global health programme focused on neglected diseases, and also supports a wider initiative to provide students the most relevant courses for a career in the pharmaceutical industry.

Neglected diseases continue to cause significant morbidity and mortality in the developing world; over one billion people are affected by diseases such as leishmaniasis, sleeping sickness, Chagas disease, malaria, tuberculosis and paediatric HIV, for which adequate treatments are not available. Of 850 new therapeutic products approved between 2000 and 2011, only 4% (and only 1% of all approved NCEs) were indicated for neglected diseases, even though these diseases account for 11% of the global disease burden.

As part of the collaboration, students will have access to StarDrop’s unique drug discovery capabilities enabling them to, for example, characterise properties for known drugs, understand the structure-activity relationships in existing project chemistry and then intuitively design new candidate compounds based on StarDrop’s predictive models. Compounds that show potential to become effective therapies for the treatment and prevention of these diseases will be progressed by DNDi.

Dr Matthew Segall, CEO of Optibrium, commented, “StarDrop is leading edge software that is used across the pharma industry to improve the speed, efficiency, and productivity of the drug discovery process. We are delighted to be working with DNDi on neglected diseases and through Imperial College, supporting students to gain experience of industry standard tools and software ‘know-how’. This will ensure that they understand best practices in data analysis and new compound design for when they enter either commercial or academic research.”

Dr David Mountford, Senior Teaching Fellow in Organic and Medicinal Chemistry at Imperial College said, “New and novel initiatives such as this train students to an exceptionally high level, in industry relevant skills such that they are more than capable of becoming the drug discovery champions of the future.”

Professor Ed Tate, Course Director for the MRes Drug Discovery and Development said, “These projects allow our students to do real innovative science at the cutting edge of drug development. They have access to every part of the process, including designing, synthesising and testing. This is the first open, ongoing project of its type, and could provide an interesting template for future collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry.”

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