The field of pharmaceutical sciences holds a treasure trove of active ingredients just waiting for new applications. Rediscovery Project Leader Frans-Joseph Sinjorgo and Fair Medicine hope to use them to develop affordable new medications.
Frans-Joseph Sinjorgo (59) is the leader of Fair Medicine’s Rediscovery project, which aims to use the active ingredients from ‘older’ drugs to develop new applications. The health care entrepreneur from Brabant, a former employee of GlaxoSmithKline, believes that Fair Medicine can play a key role in this activity.
Why is Fair Medicine a good idea?
“My expertise lies in the field of ‘rediscovery’: using older medications that have fallen into obscurity due to a new generation of pharmaceuticals, but which are still extremely valuable. The pharmaceutical industry has little interest in investing in drugs that have lost their patent, but a party like Fair Medicine can change that by acting as a kind of market, bringing supply and demand and the various interested parties together.”
Where do you see the most important bottlenecks in the current pharmaceutical market?
“The Medicines Act needs a critical review. Patent regulations were almost all written in the 1960s, and don’t really function anymore due to a lack of maintenance. It’s like being forced to live in a 50-year-old house, without insulation, central heating or WiFi. We need new regulations, so that we can develop rediscovery and innovations together with – and for – physicians. At the moment, it takes too long, and it’s too expensive.”
What are the opportunities for rediscovery?
“Over the years, more than 14,000 different pharmaceuticals or molecules have been developed and registered. So there’s a huge arsenal of affordable off-patent molecules on the shelf just watching pharmaceutical care becoming more and more expensive. Almost nobody is looking for that hidden treasure of knowledge and experience. Old science is often good science, and combining new insights with smarter ways to use existing knowledge could lead to surprising innovations.”
What perspective does rediscovery offer patients?
Drug rediscovery is all about the patient’s interests. Doctors regularly find new applications for old medicines, and the off-label use of medications is gigantic. But at the moment, it usually occurs on an ad-hoc basis, without the support of a financing model, which is needed to pay for the registration process. That was the case with a very old cytostatic drug – a cell growth inhibitor – used to treat Crohn’s disease and Collitis Ulcerosa. Financing requires cooperation, and Fair Medicine can and should be the motor behind that.”
What concrete assistance will Fair Medicine provide?
“Right now, I’m working on pseudomonas aeruginosa haptene (PAH). It was originally developed to treat burn wounds. Nobody is investing in it anymore, but there have been several studies that show it’s exceptionally effective for treating benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH). Fair Medicine will look for partners to bring the drug back into the registration process. If that is a success, rediscovery will have produced an effective drug for a fraction of the cost.”