Drug discovery is a rapidly evolving discipline, fuelled by recent advances in biotechnology and medicinal chemistry, and forms an essential part of pharmaceutical research. From the identification of new drug targets to the screening of candidate compounds to determine their therapeutic efficacy, the road to drug discovery presents immense challenges to biologists and chemists alike, who share the common goal of developing treatments that will ultimately enter clinical trials in patients.
Given the importance of bringing together basic, clinical and commercial insights for the successful development of new treatments, the field of drug discovery is one that particularly benefits from close interaction between academia and industry. At the A*STAR Experimental Therapeutic Centre (ETC), a unique educational program called the Drug Discovery Course, launched in September 2011, is attracting leading researchers as well as those from the private sector to promote deeper understanding of drug discovery methods and techniques.
The inaugural course in 2011 was attended by 80 participants from A*STAR-affiliated institutions, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, regulatory bodies and universities in Singapore. The program was carefully structured to offer real-world examples of the methodologies, tools and techniques used in translating biological insights into safe and effective therapeutic agents.
Due to the high level of interest generated by the program content and based on the positive feedback about the quality of the training, the ETC ran the Drug Discovery Course again in September 2012, which was attended by 96 participants, also from diverse backgrounds.
The Drug Discovery Course broadly consists of twelve modules, with topics including target identification and validation, screening and in vivo drug evaluation, preclinical development, and the procedures involved in drug regulatory submissions. The course also provides a historical overview of drug development, highlighting practical examples of both the successes and pitfalls of generating new medicine candidates. In addition, it covers contemporary issues such as the protection of intellectual property rights in drug discovery and development.
The course draws on the wealth of expertise brought by the guest lecturers and trainers who are involved in putting the program together. The trainers have included members of the ETC and the A*STAR p53 Laboratory, as well as distinguished representatives from Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck Sharp & Dohme, Aslan Pharmaceuticals, Takeda, Codexis, S*Bio and Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority.
The original idea behind the Drug Discovery Course grew out of the interest expressed by Singapore-based academics in furthering their knowledge of the processes involved in drug discovery, and the program was designed to respond to the needs of both A*STAR researchers and the wider biomedical science community.
The Drug Discovery Course is part of a wider initiative by the ETC to promote interaction and collaboration with industry and encourage community engagement in the ETC’s activities. Situated at Biopolis, Singapore’s premier hub for biomedical research and development, the ETC is well-positioned to continue accelerating drug discovery and developing innovative research tools in collaboration with both academic and industrial partners.
About the Experimental Therapeutics Centre
The A*STAR Experimental Therapeutics Centre (ETC) was established in 2007 as a center of excellence to advance drug discovery and development in Singapore. The ETC addresses unmet medical needs, primarily in the fields of oncology and infectious diseases, through collaborative public-private partnerships in order to translate early-stage discoveries into clinical applications. The Centre also organizes educational programs and provides mentoring and support for staff, researchers, clinicians and students interested in drug development.