Finding new uses for existing drugs has become increasingly important for treating diseases and a Marshfield Clinic-led research team has proven a new way to speed up the process, according to a study published last week in Nature Biotechnology.
Drug repurposing is the process of discovering new uses for existing drugs. The process is becoming increasingly important in drug development as success rates for new drugs in clinical trials decrease and costs increase. Critical to drug repurposing is initially identifying candidate drug-disease relationships.
Using a type of genetic study called a phenome-wide association study, researchers identified thousands of potential disease and drug relationships.This could serve as an early clue when looking for drugs that may effectively treat diseases they’re not currently prescribed for.
“This is a proof of principle study demonstrating phenome-wide association data may be rapidly applied to developing or repurposing existing drugs,” said Scott Hebbring, Ph.D., principal investigator and research scientist, Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation’s Center for Human Genetics. “Unlike other genetic-based approaches, a phenome-wide association study allows us to look at thousands of diseases at once, rather than just one disease at a time.”
By cross-referencing drug-disease pairs identified using this method, with existing medical literature, a team of researchers has identified more than 14,800 examples of where a drug might be used to treat an unrelated disease.
Hebbring said the findings could help researchers prioritize their studies which could more quickly find new uses for current drugs.