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Experts debate repurposing drugs as new therapies for minority diseases

There are 8,000 drugs already on the market or in the clinical phases of development that could also treat the symptoms of these conditions


International experts called together by B·Debate, an initiative of Biocat and the “la Caixa” Foundation, will meet at CosmoCaixa on 17 and 18 November to find new applications for drugs already on the market or that have completed clinical trials to alleviate and treat minority diseases, conditions that affect 7% of the Catalan population.

Reusing existing drugs is seen as the great hope for minority diseases, as only 5% of these conditions currently have treatment options and their low prevalence is a handicap in developing new therapies. As there are fewer patients, it is more difficult to do clinical trials and the drug discovery and development process is long and costly, which doesn't attract the pharmaceutical industry.

However, there are 8,000 drugs already on the market or in the clinical phases of development that could be used to treat the symptoms of minority diseases, alleviating the physical effects of the disease and extending patients' lives. The strategy, known as drug repurposing, considerably cuts investment costs and time-to-market for new drugs.


Program and speakers

Scientists from various disciplines, including chemistry, biology, genomics and computational sciences, will meet to discuss all of these topics at a debate led jointly by Jordi Quintana, head of Business Development at the Barcelona Science Park (PCB), and Francesc Palau, director of the Sant Joan de Déu Research Institute. The event may contribute to the discovery of new uses for existing drugs.

The event will be broken into four main sessions: International approaches for new therapies, Challenges and case studies, Data integration, computational and experimental approaches, and From research to patients.

This last session will feature a panel discussion entitled ‘Drug repurposing for rare diseases. From laboratory to patients’, which is free and open to the public, featuring Jaume Reventós (DGRI), Marta Príncep (RICHI Foundation), Jordi Surrallés (UAB), Josep Torrent (UAB / Eurordis), Raül Insa (SOM Biotech), Francesc Palau (Hospital Sant Joan de Déu) and Marc Martinell (Minoryx).

There are approximately 7,000 different minority diseases in the world, according to the Orphanet international database. Most are very severe genetic conditions, often deadly, appearing during childhood.



Date: 17 and 18 November

Venue: CosmoCaixa Barcelona

More information is available on the B·Debate website.

Follow the debate on Twitter with the hashtags #BDRareDiseases and #BDebate and the account @BDebate.


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There will be a free panel discussion open to the public on the afternoon of Friday 18 November, discussing the road from laboratory to patients in repurposing drugs for rare diseases.