Faculty of Pharmacy from Universidade de Lisboa (FFUL) is part of the SIMPATHIC Consortium, led that has developed a new approach to expedite the use of existing drugs for groups of patients with rare neurological disorders. The consortium has been awarded an 8.8 million euros grant from the Horizon Europe program to further develop this innovative method.

Traditionally, drugs are developed one disease at a time, which is costly and time-consuming. It often takes a long time before patients can use a new drug. The international SIMPATHIC Consortium has created a novel method for accelerating the use of existing drugs for other conditions, based on screening tissues from individual patients.

The researchers will use a new technology to test the efficacy of existing drugs in patients with neurological disorders, requiring only a tube of blood or a small piece of skin from the patient. These materials contain stem cells that the researchers culture into nerve cells. They subsequently test how they respond to a variety of existing drugs.

If the researchers observe a positive effect of a drug, they will launch a clinical study in a group of patients with different disorders but similar clinical symptoms. As existing drugs have already been tested in humans, animal studies may not be necessary, which significantly accelerates the use of drugs in new applications and reduces research costs.

The SIMPATHIC Consortium comprises 22 partners, including research teams from Radboudumc, Amsterdam UMC, and other academic centers in Europe and Canada, European patient organizations, companies, and a European infrastructure network. The Faculty of Pharmacy of Lisbon University is represented by Professors Sofia de Oliveira Martins and Adelaide Fernandes. The consortium’s innovative approach is expected to revolutionize drug development.