Astellas continues IT-enabled drug repurposing deal drive with Excelra hookup

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Astellas Pharma has struck its third drug repurposing agreement of the past 6 months. The latest collaboration sees Astellas start working with Excelra, an Indian informatics company that has landed 8 similar deals on the strength of its drug repurposing database and accompanying algorithms.

Excelra will provide Astellas with access to its Drug Repurposing Platform, a tool it claims can help researchers identify new indications for existing drugs through the use of data and analytics. As with other in silico approaches to drug repurposing, the Excelra platform sifts through data in an attempt to match a known drug to different disease targets. Excelra can also work in the opposite direction, taking a known target and using it as the basis for a hunt for a suitable compound.

Exactly how the process works is something Excelra is keeping to itself. The platform is underpinned by a custom database. Excelra has paired this resource to 8 repurposing algorithms, an analytics engine and visualization tools, a combination that it thinks can help researchers uncover new ways to use old drugs. Astellas has seen potential in the platform, prompting it to add Excelra to the growing list of IT-enabled drug repurposing shops with which it works.

The Japanese pharma committed to the repurposing strategy last year when it set up a unit focused on finding new uses for old drugs as part of a wider restructuring. That unit has since entered into alliances with Biovista and Stanford University-spinout NuMedii. Like Excelra, Biovista and NuMedii are both trying to use data and analytics tools to automate the process of spotting novel connections between drugs and diseases.

Such repurposing work has fallen in and out of fashion over the years, but Astellas has provided a boost for tech companies operating in the sector. The Excelra deal is the third IT-enabled repurposing deal the Japanese drugmaker has inked since December. Prior to the start of that deal spree, Allergan ($AGN) made its own move into the field, tapping NuMedii for help with the discovery of treatments for psoriasis.

For Excelra, the deal with Astellas marks an advance in its attempts to establish itself as a standalone business. The unit was formerly known as GVK Informatics. As recently as October 2014, news from the unit went out under the banner of its parent company, GVK Biosciences. However, following the scandal that led European regulators to ban hundreds of drugs tested by GVK Bio, the unit started operating under the name Excelra.

While still GVK Informatics, the unit struck some notable repurposing deals, including agreements with the FDA and Takeda. Since the rebranding, Excelra has added Astellas to its client list and entered into an alliance with H.M. Pharma Consultancy to pitch its services to European companies.

- read the release

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