|Andrew West is pursuing a compound to inhibit LRRK2, an enzyme that appears to be a central enabler |
of the brain cell death seen in Parkinson's disease.
In its long journey from the petri dish to the first human patient, every new drug has to cross a wasteland called the "valley of death." Therapeutic programs enter, but most don’t come out the other side.
"The government is good at funding basic research to identify drug targets, and Big Pharma is good at taking drugs and putting them through clinical trials," says Andrew West, Ph.D., John A. and Ruth R. Jurenko Endowed Professor in Neurology at UAB. "But all of the in-between work, the pre-clinical and drug development components, is called the 'valley of death' for research, because nobody funds it, nobody pays attention to it. That's a big part of the lack of new drugs."
In fact, less than 10 percent of drugs that make it into preclinical testing will end up getting FDA approval, according to the agency's figures. But West is part of a new approach to the drug-discovery process designed to upend those odds: a partnership between UAB and Birmingham-based Southern Research Institute known as the Alabama Drug Discovery Alliance (ADDA).