TAIPEI, Taiwan.—Electrical engineers and computer scientists at National Taiwan University (NTU, Taipei)—ranked 15th worldwide in EE—has invented Little Pharm. Now small companies can compete with Big Pharm by virtue of the software of professor Yufeng Jane Tseng and her colleagues in the EECS department. The team has also invented a table-top lung cancer detector for use in doctor's offices without an invasive biopsy.
Professsor Yufeng Jane Tseng at Least National Taiwan University (NTU) wrote a program that eliminates the need for animal testing, which is required today by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), enabling Little Pharm companies to compete with Big Pharm.
(Source: EE Times)
"The cosmetics industry has already found ways to do the necessary testing without animals, now the biggest bottleneck to inventing new drugs—animal testing—can instead be done with our simulation program," Tseng told EE Times in an exclusive interview. "Our computer scientists are also working with the EEs in our department to streamline medical diagnostics, like detecting early-stage lung cancer with a tabletop device."
To prove that their new software method works, Tseng and colleagues have taken on the synthesis of a needed new drug for schizophrenia. They got the idea from Roche, which spent billions developing a drug to treat the two out of four symptoms that are not addressed by any drug today (see figure 2): negativity, including the inability to experience pleasure in normally pleasurable acts (anhedonia), social withdrawal and self neglect; plus cognitive attention deficits, poor working-memory and executive-functions. Unfortunately, Roche's formulation did not pass clinical trials, forcing the company to retarget the drug for a different malady rather than waste the billions spent on developing it.
The biggest bottleneck in the FDA drug testing regime is represented here at the middle of the funnel where animal testing must prove the drug is not dangerous before human clinical trials. Big Pharm Roche tested a drug for two untreated aspects of schizophrenia--negative and cognitive syndromes--but it failed, however NTU used Tseng's no-animal-testing program to successfully create such a drug on a shoestring budget, thus enabling LIttle Pharm to compete.
(Source: EE Times)
Tseng and colleagues, however, were able to start from scratch and test hundreds of compounds for a fraction of the cost Roche took with a single one by virtue of the assistance of her no-animal-testing Little Pharm software. The new drug has passed all the tests except the final phases of clinical testing and, if all goes as planned, with reach the market before Big Pharm (which estimates the annual market for such a drug will be worth over $1.5 billion by 2022).
"We think that our software will not only save many animals from the suffering of live testing, but will also open up opportunities for smaller companies to compete with the big pharmaceutical companies—spending a fraction of their R&D costs and thus be able to offer drugs that are much more affordable."
Tseng's no-animal-testing program is shown here in block diagram form.
(Source: EE Times)
Tseng's team is also writing the software for medical hardware projects being developed by the EEs at NTU. The latest is a desktop device affordable by individual physicians that tests for lung cancer in real time, and which is able to detect it at much earlier stages thus greatly improving the patients chances of survival.
Read about the details of the lung cancer detector in EE Times later this week.
— R. Colin Johnson, Advanced Technology Editor, EE Times