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Opinion: Virtual repurposing can speed the discovery of new uses for existing drugs

The process for discovering drugs tends to be based on the same kind of pigeonholing that doctors use to treat disease: Parkinson’s is one disease, Crohn’s is something completely separate. A new approach, sometimes called virtual repurposing, offers a way to discover unknown connections between “unconnected” diseases that may lead to new treatments.

Drug discovery usually begins with a promising molecule. It is then tested in animal models and, if there are signs of effectiveness, in human clinical trials. At every step along the way, the data emerging from this work must be analyzed. It’s a slow process that can take a decade or more and cost, on average, more than $2.6 billion.

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