Drug repurposing (also called drug repositioning, reprofiling or re‑tasking) is a strategy for identifying new uses for approved or investigational drugs that are outside the scope of the original medical indication.
This is possible because human biology is built on a network of biological pathways, and rather frequently a single pathway can be involved in more than one disease manifestation – thus if one drug can modulate a pathway for one disease, it can potentially have effects in other diseases.
Repurposing’s several advantages include the ability to circumvent the very costly earlier stages of drug discovery (financially and timewise), as well as tapping into drugs which are already proven to be safe and, in some cases, off-patent which might facilitate quicker and cheaper access.
Mining publicly available data
BenevolentAI used its ‘Benevolent Platform’ to comprehensively review and understand the millions of scientific papers, clinical trials information, and additional datasets relating to age-related macular degeneration with a view to identifying potential gene targets and treatments.
The research identified seven existing drugs - in development or being used to treat other conditions - that have the potential to be repurposed to treat macular degeneration. In addition the analysis suggested new gene targets for investigation.
We are proceeding now to further validate these hypotheses by deploying a pharmaco-epidemiology analysis on historical anonymised health data held by the NHS and ask whether the incidence of AMD is lower in groups which have taken those drugs we have identified, compared to those who have not taken those drugs - carefully adjusted for confounding factors.
We are also incorporating other potential drugs being investigated to reverse ageing processes, which might potentially offer protection against AMD.