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UCB launches online challenge to find new drugs

Published on 28/01/14 at 09:18am
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UCB has launched its ‘Innovation Challenge’ as it looks to pay members of the public to help develop new drugs.

The Challenge will take place online and is designed to help the company find rare phenotypes - for example, people who are somehow protected from disease or possess exceptional tissue regeneration. This could then be used by UCB to help develop new drug targets.

People are being asked to enter submissions that describe a “relevant, interesting and rare human phenotype” via a new site - the deadline for submissions is 20 February. 

The best entry will receive an award of $10,000 - UCB will also hand out ‘bonus awards’ (no smaller than $1,000) to those who the judges feel submitted an ‘especially interesting or relevant entry’.

In order to be eligible for an award, submissions must describe phenotypes that can be studied to provide information useful in the development of new disease prevention strategies, the company explained.

Describing the kind of entries that UCB is looking for, Dr Duncan McHale, VP of global exploratory development at the firm, said: “We have a completely open mind about what phenotypes might be most appropriate to explore. For example, individuals or groups who exhibited exceptional wound healing after surgery or trauma might warrant further investigation.

“Equally, those who have consistently displayed exceptional resistance or immunity to infections, or who, after a robust clinical diagnosis, displayed unusually fast or spontaneous disease remission might be the basis for a winning submission.”

The challenge is also open to researchers who have ideas around how best to identify exceptional phenotypes, or who through a phenotype based approach identify a rare condition that could provide insights valuable in treating or preventing a more common condition.

By better understanding the molecular basis of a rare phenotype, UCB scientists hope to be able to develop new medicines for the treatment of severe diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or multiple sclerosis.

UCB has partnered with problem-solving specialists InnoCentive to develop and launch the Challenge.

The firm hopes the InnoCentive network of registered problem-solvers, proven challenge methodology and cloud-based technology will combine to open “exciting new avenues of scientific research and development”.

Ben Adams 

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