NIH, DARPA, FDA team up on drug safety technology

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Three government agencies will collaborate to develop a chip to screen drugs faster and more efficiently than current methods for safety and effectiveness, according to a Sept. 16 statement from President Barack Obama. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the FDA will develop the chip to carry specific cell types that reflect human biology to report on whether specific compounds are toxic to humans.

“Drug toxicity is one of the most common reasons why promising compounds fail,” Francis S. Collins, MD, PhD, NIH director, said in a statement. “We need to know which ones are safe and effective much earlier on in the process.”

This fall, NIH and DARPA, in coordination with the FDA, will solicit proposals from industry, government labs, academic institutions and other research organizations to develop the chip, according to an NIH release. NIH will commit up to $70 million in the next five years, and DARPA will invest a comparable amount.

The FDA will help determine how to use the technology prior to approval for human studies, and the proposed National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences will study the steps in the process of diagnostics and work toward streamlining the collaboration.