The approach they’re taking to do this is an interesting one, because while the work is very early stage, and traditionally would have been limited to laboratory and animal research, we are already planning to look at the biological effects of one of our investigational medicines in a small group patients. To do this, the team is using state-of-the-art technology to study precisely how the treatment affects the chemical signs of the disease inside the body.
What is experimental medicine?
This relatively new, more targeted approach to testing medicines in patients is known as “experimental medicine” and it lies at the heart of a new alliance we’ve formed with the University of Cambridge and its partner hospitals. Experimental medicine provides a valuable check-point in the R&D process, helping us gain greater confidence that an investigative medicine is doing what we expect it to in the human body. Demonstrating this proof-of-mechanism early provides greater certainty that we’re going in the right direction before committing to the large, lengthy and expensive clinical trials that are necessary to take a medicine all the way through development.
Early stage R&D has, until very recently, been limited to lab and animal-based research, curbing our ability to measure the true impact of a drug on human disease at that point in the development process. Currently, only around 10% of compounds entering clinical trials reach patients as medicines. This is often because either the biological target for a drug is not well understood, or the drug itself is not having the required effect on disease mechanisms. But with recent technological advances, we’re now able to examine how different diseases behave in individual cells in the body, and the impact of potential new medicines on disease processes.