The Centre for Translational Therapeutics
The production of new and safe drugs is essential to improve the health of the population and reduce the impact of diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disorders and neurodegenerative disorders. Recently the design and production of innovative medicines has been partly hampered by the excessive emphasis placed by industry on unbiased screenings to select new lead compounds as well as by a lack of reliable methods to anticipate the effectiveness of drugs in humans and/or to predict and avert adverse drug reactions. Such innovations are further hindered by a lack of strategic collaborations between industry and academia and by a fragmented landscape of fundamental and clinical research. In the early 1990's, Europe spent more on pharmaceutical research and development than the USA, but this trend was reversed by 2002, due in part to the relocation of industry from the EU to the USA where strategic collaborations exist between Universities and pharmaceutical companies. Europe lacks strategic initiatives focused around academic centres to attract major investments by industry.
Both the European Commission 'lnnovative Medicine Initiative" and the Academy of Medical Sciences “Safer Medicines Report” have highlighted the need for new scientific strategies and better training to foster the production of more effective and safer drugs. In addition, with the institution of the European Agency for the Evaluation of Medicinal Products (EMEA) it is apparent that a better coordination of European standards will require new ways to assess drug safety and efficacy. This will necessitate new investments in research and the education of a new breed of scientists familiar with molecular science and experimental medicine, but also aware of regulatory affairs.
The University of Leicester and the MRC Toxicology Unit excel in many areas of both fundamental and clinical science that will form the basis for the design of better and safer drugs. These include functional genomics, structural biology, molecular cell biology, cell signalling and population genetics. In clinical research there are particular strengths in cardiovascular disease and cancer, with close links between basic and clinical studies. These include studies that link genetic analyses and population studies to identify disease predictors and factors affecting therapeutic outcome. The Toxicology Unit, with a strong focus in modern molecular Toxicology, is one of the largest academic Toxicology laboratories in Europe and has pioneered new approaches to predict potential adverse effects of drugs and environmental agents and to identify novel pharmacological targets in human disease.
The University of Leicester and the Medical Research Council recognise the importance of modern drug science and the need for a coordinated research approach to deliver new tools and concepts for the design of a new generation of therapeutic agents. To this end, a new Centre for Translational Therapeutics been created from January 2009, involving both fundamental and clinical research. This will include a number of University research groups together with the MRC Toxicology Unit.