The NIH Roadmap: Is it Valid for Drug Discovery?

Next month in Montreal, at the Society for Biomolecular Science's 13th annual meeting, two scientists will debate this point.  In favor of the roadmap is Mel Reichman, from the Lankenau Institute; advancing the other point of view will be Christopher Lipinski, with Melior Discovery. For more, see the press release below: Scientific Researchers Debate Validity of National Institutes of Health Roadmap as Model for Drug Discovery   - Topic to be Discussed at 13th Annual Conference of the Society for Biomolecular Sciences “ As more diseases become global and threaten the lives of millions of people, scientific researchers across the world are struggling to develop treatments to prevent the further spread of these debilitating illnesses. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) sought to address this issue by establishing its Roadmap for Medical Research in the 21st Century.  Comprised of 10 academic institutions, the goal of the NIH Roadmap is to highlight advances made and opportunities missed in biomedical research that can lead to important progress in the field.  These "Centers of Excellence are funded to discover tools and data that may one day provide scientists with necessary information about the biological processes of various health conditions in developed and under developed countries. Interestingly, the controversy surrounding the NIH Roadmap has pitted colleague against colleague and biologist against chemist as both sides argue over whether or not this program is a new model for drug discovery. Two leading researchers will take on this controversy at the Society for Biomolecular Sciences 13th annual meeting in Montreal on April 19.  Mel Reichman, Ph.D., senior investigator and director at Lankenau Institute for Medical Research in Wynnewood, Penn., will address how the Roadmap allows for more opportunity in drug discoveries made at academic institutions that may one day lead to new treatments for health issues such as breast cancer, diabetes, heart disease and malaria. "An important component of the NIH Roadmap involves the screening of countless molecular compounds at these academic institutions which may help identify new pathways and new chemical leads for the development of new drugs, says Dr. Reichman. "If these screening campaigns ultimately result in identifying new drugs for old diseases, pharmaceutical companies will have an important new 'partner' in academic institutions that can complement pharmaceutical companies in their early-stage drug discovery programs. On the other hand, Christopher Lipinski, Ph.D., scientific advisor for Melior Discovery in Waterford, Conn., insists that this concept is more of a pipedream than a pipeline for drug discovery.  "The NIH Roadmap in reality has nothing to do with drug discovery because the science involved occurs at such an early stage, says Dr. Lipinski. "We might learn more about biological pathways that may or may not lead to drug discovery someday, but in and of itself, it's not drug discovery. Dr. Lipinski believes that the difference lies in the chemical structure of the compounds being screened, which if used for drug discovery cannot contain chemistry functionality with flaws.  While biologists can discover molecules and probes, a chemist is uniquely trained and qualified to determine if the compounds have any flaws in its structure that might prohibit the process toward drug discovery. Drs. Reichman and Lipinski will present further information on this Point/Counterpoint discussion at the 13th annual conference of the Society for Biomolecular Sciences (SBS) April 15-19, 2007 in Montreal, Canada.