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Research ecosystem

The chain that supplies patients with new medicines consists of various complex links: from fundamental research to clinical tests and production. This entire chain is represented in Leiden. Leiden University, the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), and the companies on the Leiden Bio Science Park (LBSP) work closely together to bring new medicines to patients.

The development of molecules into a drug is a process of many years: from test tube to tests on healthy test subjects and patients. In the process, it often happens that an agent that initially seemed promising ends up falling by the wayside because it works less well on living organisms or causes side-effects. That is why we need better predictive tests that can indicate at an early stage whether a specific molecule will be effective as a drug for humans.

Best predictor of effectiveness

That way, the action of medicines can be tested on cell lines obtained from stem cells, on organoids, or on organisms, such as the zebrafish. This allows for more accurate predictions of the effectiveness of drugs on humans. The LED3 network (Leiden Early Drug Discovery & Development) has a strong position in this area. LED3 is a partnership between the Institute of Biology Leiden (IBL), the Leiden Institute of Chemistry (LIC), and the Leiden Academic Centre for Drug Research (LACDR).

Unattractive for pharmaceutical companies

Developing a new drug takes a long time, and is therefore also expensive, which makes some drugs less attractive for pharmaceutical companies. Researchers from Leiden University and the LUMC want to make sure that these drugs also find their way to patients. They do this by bundling the knowledge and infrastructure needed to test candidate drugs according to the correct norms. In doing so, they focus mostly on drugs for the treatment of infectious diseases, specific tumours, and rare diseases.

Bringing drugs to the market

One of the LUMC research themes is Academic Pharma, which develops various medicines and brings them to the market. Examples include dimethyldoxorubicin, an anthracycline without harmful effects on the heart, developed for patients with an osteosarcoma, and penfluridol, a drug used to treat psychosis and that is now being developed as a new treatment for bladder cancer.

Public-private partnerships

In addition to these more traditional drugs, LUMC researchers also conduct a lot of research on highly innovative treatments such as gene or cell therapy. In some cases, academic researchers can take care of the entire process, all the way to registration, but usually a public-private partnership with a pharmaceutical company is required somewhere along the way. The LUMC has a specialist department for clinical research, and also collaborates with the Centre for Human Drug Research in the early stages of drug studies (for example testing on healthy test subjects). 

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