re Rx: Dedicated to exploring, informing and reflecting on the world of repurposing research
Dr. Bruce Bloom, December 10, 2013
Cures Within Reach is totally focused on finding new uses for existing science and medicine, what we call Rediscovery Research™. It wasn’t always our focus. We missed the power of repurposing for a long time! We first funded repurposing medical research in 2000, when we supported a project at Mayo Clinic repurposing the leprosy drug Thalidomide for a new indication in the blood cancer in multiple myeloma. We didn’t support it because it was repurposing-we supported it because of the quality of the research and researcher. We supported several other Rediscovery Research projects between 2002 and 2008, also not purposefully repurposing-just picking good projects from good researchers.
In 2009, we stopped to look back at what we had funded over the prior decade. What we found was most of our research funding went to what we call New Discovery Research-new molecules, new pathways, new genes, new devices. We could not find much evidence that these projects were touching patient lives in any meaningful way. We had supported great researchers at prestigious institutions. We had supported a lot of great articles getting published, enhancing our understanding of science. We helped many labs grow their reputation and size. But we hadn’t had the patient impact we were looking for.
In contrast, a number of our Rediscovery Research projects, which we more or less stumbled upon, were being used in clinical practice improving patient lives. Patients with autoimmune lymphoproliferative disease and familial dysautonomia had repurposed therapies that had changed their diseases from life-ending to very manageable. MS, diabetic and lung cancer patients were in clinical trials utilizing repurposed therapies that were significantly improving outcomes. It was at this point we wondered what would happen if we repurposed on purpose?
The next step was to find out if there was enough Rediscovery Research out there to make a difference in the world. The answer was a resounding, “Yes!” 66% of researchers and 25% of clinicians we polled had at least on testable repurposing idea. And so, Rediscovery Research is now our total focus.
And over the last few years many others have joined our Repurposing Revolution, both in the non-profit and for-profit sectors. The latest purposeful repurposing announcement comes from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. publishers, who announced recently that they were going to publish the first Journal of Repurposing, Rescue and Reprofiling. Many of us in the repurposing world have been lobbying for one of the publishers to create a journal like this. This is one more indication that repurposing is taking its place among the ways to improve the quality and length of lives for patients with diseases with no currently effective treatment.