Drug ‘repurposing’ or ‘reprofiling’ is not new: Pharmaceutical companies have been seeking new uses of old drugs to extend patent protections and whenever new, off-label uses of the drugs are found. But reprofiling to deliberately develop emergency drugs is a new concept.

“In the case of new infectious threats, there might be no time to develop a completely new drug ‘from the ground up,’ as the corresponding toxicological studies and regulatory investigations will take years to complete properly,” says Artem Cherkasov, Ph.D., of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. “Finding an already existing, well-studied therapeutic agent that will kill an emerging bug might provide a rapid, ‘first line of defense’ response option.”

Under the new computer-aided system, the researchers plan to first identify vulnerable cellular components of a pathogen using proteomics, or the study of proteins and their interactions. They will enter these key structures into the computer and, using elements of modern ‘Artificial Intelligence,’ will identify drugs that have the highest potential for activity against the target and for antimicrobial activity, says Cherkasov. Those compounds with the highest ‘ranking’ can then be quickly tested in the laboratory against the pathogen and eventually used to treat infected individuals, the researcher says.

The new approach is still in development for possible future use during an actual outbreak, Cherkasov notes. However, many non-antibiotic drugs have been shown to have antibiotic-like properties using this technique, he says. For example, computer studies have suggested that lovastatin, a drug marketed to lower cholesterol, and gentisic acid, an anti-inflammatory drug related to aspirin, both show promise as strong antibiotics. But more studies are needed before these compounds can be recommended for use as antibiotics in a clinical setting, he adds.

MEDICA.de; Source: American Chemical Society