News Release:

May 19,  2009

New Emory Institute for Drug Discovery Combines Research, Training, Global Partnerships

From Woodruff Health Sciences Center News

Emory University today announced the establishment of a new Emory Institute for Drug Discovery (EIDD). The Institute has the dual mission of carrying out early-stage discovery and pre-clinical drug research aimed at developing small-molecule therapeutics, and training new generations of researchers in a multidisciplinary drug discovery environment.

The EIDD will focus on commercially neglected diseases, global health partnerships, mentored research, and multidisciplinary interactions both within and outside the University.

Directed and staffed by recognized leaders in the field of drug discovery, the EIDD will build on Emory’s strong history of drug discovery research, including the invention of several of the world’s most successful and widely prescribed drugs for treating HIV/AIDS.

“Over the past few decades Emory has developed outstanding programs in both drug discovery and global health,” says James Wagner, president of Emory University. “The Emory Institute for Drug Discovery enables us to link those strong, multidisciplinary initiatives with outstanding training programs in the sciences to create an Institute we believe will have a powerful and lasting impact on the health of people throughout the world.”

“We believe the EIDD is strategically positioned to make Emory one of the premier research and training institutions in the country for drug discovery, development and training,” says Dennis Liotta, PhD, Emory professor of chemistry and director of the EIDD. “Our EIDD model will preserve the academic independence of university-based laboratory research, while at the same time allowing us opportunities to closely partner with the pharmaceutical industry.”

As a co-inventor of drugs taken by more than 94 percent of patients in the U.S. with HIV/AIDS and by thousands around the globe, Liotta is a recognized leader and educator in university drug discovery. He also is a successful entrepreneur who has developed several biotechnology companies, and he has trained and mentored numerous young researchers in the science of drug discovery.

Commercially neglected diseases: As part of a non-profit research university, the EIDD is optimally positioned to address diseases in both the developing and the developed world that often are neglected by the biopharmaceutical industry because of their lower market potential. At present, the Institute will continue Emory projects already underway in tuberculosis, measles and malaria.

World health: Emory University has made a significant commitment to addressing diseases in the developing world. The EIDD has established a research environment ideally suited to train visiting scientists from developing areas of the world and to further enable their ability to pursue research and development in their home countries. As an example, Emory has partnered with the Republic of South Africa to create a drug-discovery training program to provide South African scientists with the expertise to develop new treatments for diseases in sub-Saharan Africa.

Mentored research: Hands-on research will be the foundation of the educational experience at the EIDD. Junior researchers will be closely mentored by a seasoned EIDD staff with proven records of success in drug discovery. Researchers will work on cutting-edge projects with the potential for a direct, positive impact on human health.

Multidisciplinary interactions: Drug discovery is, by nature, a multidisciplinary effort that requires the involvement of scientific, legal, regulatory and business professionals. One of the key hurdles to success in drug discovery is lack of an integrated training experience. The EIDD already has developed a number of ongoing programs so that individuals from diverse fields may interact and learn from one another, thus providing a broad, multidisciplinary training experience.

The EIDD will collaborate closely with and benefit from other drug discovery efforts already ongoing at Emory, including the Emory Chemical Biology Discovery Center, which is part of the National Institutes of Health Molecular Libraries Screening Center Network (MLSCN).  The center uses high-throughput technologies to screen libraries of hundreds of thousands of small molecule compounds against promising protein targets identified by Emory scientists. In addition, scientific teams in various Emory departments such as Chemistry, Pharmacology and Pathology, the Winship Cancer Institute, and the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Medical Center are focused on drug discovery.

"The Emory Institute for Drug Discovery is an exciting opportunity for Emory and Georgia to capitalize on the investments we are making in scientific talent and research infrastructure to address some of the most challenging health problems in the world," says Michael Cassidy, president and CEO of the Georgia Research Alliance, a partner with Emory in the new Institute. "It also exemplifies the model of collaboration that is the backbone of groundbreaking research in our state."

The EIDD and its staff have extensive capabilities to perform medicinal chemistry, cellular biology, pharmacokinetic profiling and pharmacology and toxicology studies. A pipeline of drug discovery projects already is in place. Along with other scientists at Emory already focused on drug discovery, approximately 12 new research faculty will focus their efforts in the center, which has temporary space in the Emory Department of Chemistry and at the Emory Vaccine Center and Yerkes National Primate Research Center. Planning for a future new facility is underway. Eventually, approximately 30 faculty and staff will be part of the EIDD.

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The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service.

Learn more about Emory’s health sciences:
Blog: http://emoryhealthblog.com
Twitter: @emoryhealthsci
Web: http://emoryhealthsciences.org

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