I’ve been out of the current USA science policy loop in the past few weeks because of exams, thus the lack of comment on the dubious new emissions capping bill that is bumping around in the House right now. If it survives, I’ll get back to that. However, the most exciting news I’ve had this week was the news release about NIH’s new fund for the Treatment of Rare and Neglected Diseases (TRND). Although the target diseases are not yet defined, this opens up an incredibly important door for research that the private sector won’t touch. Notably, cystic fibrosis and Huntington’s are covered in the “rare” category, and “neglected” includes all of tropical parasitology and bacteriological infections. My immediate response to the press release would best be described as :)! Granted, most of the drug repurposing trials will be dead ends – that’s what we get for using library trawling as a ‘design’ technique. However, an interesting statement under the FAQ section detailing TRND’s goals is this:

“TRND will seek to advance the entire field of drug development by encouraging scientific and technological innovations aimed at improving success rates in the crucial pre-clinical stage of development.”

Does this mean that they will return the field from scanning discovery to reasoned design? Not necessarily, but any significant methodological advances they do make could have a profound impact on the structure of drug development and the pharmaceutical industry. With luck, the next decade could initiate a natural overhaul of drug development and the availability of treatment for many of the 3rd world diseases that top WHO clinical burden charts but remain unaddressed.

Once again I should mention how much I love my country.