Feds' new computer tox test saves research time, money

Everyone seriously engaged in the drug development business knows the odds against success with any experimental new drug. And they certainly can count the costs of lengthy animal safety studies, which can significantly erode a drug's potential revenue post-approval.

Now a new computer-based system is being introduced that can cut down on the amount of time and money it takes to demonstrate drug safety. Working with advanced robotics and software, three federal agencies have perfected a new system that tests an experimental product against animal and human cells, highlighting signs of toxicity that can eliminate a candidate before it's put through expensive studies.

As David Jacobson-Kram tells Bloomberg's Anna Edley, the faster you can weed out the duds "the more economic sense it makes." Pfizer researcher Bob Chapin tells the news service that the Tox21 program can replace a month-long animal study with a test that takes less than five days.

"We want to migrate away from animal testing," says Jacobson-Kram, a remark that's likely to be celebrated among animal rights activists, some of whom have recently been engaged in vicious attacks on researchers and the companies involved in the field. The FDA agreed to accept these new screening results in lieu of animal tests last May.

- here's the feature from Bloomberg