Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research

Drug development is a complex process in which many parties work together. Every day, the researchers at LACDR devote their energies to developing drugs that are new, better, more efficient and easier to produce. And thus to the millions of patients who know all too well why this research in Leiden is essential. The Institute works together closely with the LUMC, with businesses at the Leiden Bio Science Park and with numerous other national and international institutes and companies.

From start molecule to the pharmacy shelves

The researchers at LACDR study the entire process of drug development and production, from start molecule to the pharmacy shelves. This involves bringing together knowledge from different worlds: chemistry, biology, computer science, physics and mathematics. These disciplines come together under the themes of ‘BioTherapeutics,’ ‘Drug Discovery & Safety’ and ‘Systems Biomedicine and Pharmacology.’

To ensure that drugs can actually be developed, the researchers at LACDR share fundamental knowledge with partners. LACDR is closely involved, for instance, in one of the largest public-private European partnerships in the area of drug development, the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI). Such initiatives are essential to making continued progress, particularly with complex products such as drugs.

Protein as a basis

The researchers at the ‘BioTherapeutics’ group are trying to advance our knowledge by focusing on protein drugs. Proteins are promising drugs, for instance in the treatment of cardiovascular disease – a specialism of LACDR. The researchers are working hard to find ways to get these kinds of medicines to the right spot in the body, something that is much more complex than with the small molecules that traditional drugs are made from.


Proteins also form the basis of the ‘Drug Discovery & Safety’ research group. This group focuses on the design process for new drugs, by using 3D templates, for example. It uses models to predict the efficacy of potential medicines and the optimal dose per person.

Individual level

The researchers at ‘Systems Biomedicine and Pharmacology’ also look at the individual level. Their aim is to become better at predicting the outcome of a treatment. The researchers analyse metabolites, for instance (a waste product of drugs), comparing the metabolite profiles of ill and healthy people.

LACDR’s teaching is closely linked to its research. All students do ten weeks of lab work to familiarise them with the research world.

Influence of AI

Drugs research is constantly changing. Artificial Intelligence, for instance, will have a growing impact on this sector in the years to come. Although this may change how research is conducted, LACDR’s mission will always remain the same: to give patients the prospect of a better life.

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