Drug development

Drugs developed within the pharmaceutical industry, guided by advances in medicinal chemistry

Knowledge-based genotoxicity prediction tools used universally in pharmaceutical development

Impact summary

Lhasa Ltd. (established as a part of this research) has made widely available toxicity prediction software, currently known as Derek Nexus (Derek) that exploits underpinning research undertaken at the University of Leeds.

The use of Derek by large pharmaceutical companies to support drug development is effectively universal. 

Toxicology prediction software has led to changes in guidelines issued by regulatory authorities and to industry-wide changes to the investigation of the toxicity of trace impurities. 

These changes have reduced the resources needed for experimental investigation of toxicity, and have increased revenues derived from launched drugs by extending their patent period of exclusivity. 

Lhasa Ltd. generates income in support of its charitable aims from Derek, and a related product Meteor Nexus (Meteor), also based on research undertaken in Leeds. 

Wide reaching impact

The ability to predict potential significant toxicity of pharmaceutical impurities is of vital importance to the pharmaceutical industry because many drug candidates fail in development due to toxicity problems. 

Early toxicity testing can prevent the costs associated with unnecessary R&D and the late failure of drug candidates.

In 2008 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published guidance on “a variety of ways to characterize and reduce the potential lifetime cancer risk associated with patient exposure to genotoxic and carcinogenic impurities both during clinical development and after approval”. 

Derek is specifically cited as a recommended prediction tool to inform decision-making. 

Although a number of methods are mentioned alongside Derek for this initial toxicity evaluation, in practice, the use of Derek by large pharmaceutical companies is effectively universal. 

Changes to guidelines have been made and the pharmaceutical sector has adopted Derek as a tool for toxicology prediction.

The universal application of the Derek system derives from its excellent success rate in identifying structures that represent a genotoxicity risk and providing supporting evidence for its assertions. 

Since the mid-2000’s the success of Derek has embedded the software in the workflow industry-wide as a means of reducing costly and time consuming experimental evaluation.

The embedding of predictive toxicity tools has also had a significant bearing on cost and resource. 

Each year, on average, a major pharmaceutical company might perform 100 Derek screens on impurities to adhere to regulatory guidelines for genotoxic impurities. 

Of these, a significant proportion (over 50%) will generate a clean signal and, as a result, development can proceed without further safety testing. 

The research was undertaken by our Chemical Biology and Medicinal Chemistry research group, along with partners from the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.