There is considerable interest within the NUS community in developing novel chemical entities with therapeutic potential and indeed enthusiasm is rising as research within the University grows and with the greater focus on meeting the needs of industry.

It is widely accepted that the success rate worldwide in terms of commercializing drug patent opportunities is low since, for one thing, competition is rife and for another the pharmaceutical industry has been imposing increasingly higher 'barriers to entry'.

Clearly, the chances that an NUS academic will be able to identify and then to develop a commercially viable drug candidate (encompassing small molecules, peptides and biologics) are not high but, as many Universities have discovered, these chances can be improved by taking some relatively simple measures.

A big problem faced by Universities is the 'mismatch' between the information which academics are able to provide about possible drug candidates and what the industry actually requires to meet current unmet medical needs.

Although it varies from one company to another, industry would like to see some or all of the following: potency and selectivity data (both in vitro and in vivo), preferably a comparison of potency with an established therapeutic entity, mechanism of action (particularly off-site targets), structure-activity data as well as information about the new drugs physicochemical properties, pharmacokinetic profile and toxicity.

The function of the DDU is to work together with academics within the NUS community and also with patent experts in ILO, to provide added value to potential candidate compounds thereby increasing the likelihood that they can be successfully patented, licensed and commercialized.

At the very least, the information on the drug candidates gleaned in the course of this work will help to improve the decision-making process, allow a much earlier 'stop-go' decision on the compound and provide the academic with additional useful information about the compound which they would most likely not be able to put together within their own laboratories.

Further, as the DDU develops and creates better links with industry there may also be opportunities for academics to forge relationships with pharmaceutical companies with a view, perhaps, to industrial sponsorship of the basic science in their laboratories.

In parallel, ILO will also facilitate communication with potential industry partners to determine if a project has co-development potential.

Thus, the principle role of the DDU is to assist in the development of new drug candidates.

The DDU aims to grow and enhance its current capabilities and to develop into a 'one stop shop' for NUS academics who have good ideas and preliminary data about novel drug candidates.

The DDU is part of the Integrative Research Cluster (Biomedical Science and Translational Medicine) overseen by the Office of the Deputy President (Research and Technology)