News Feature | January 31, 2014

A Unique Take On Pharmaceutical Research

Source: BioProcess Online

By Marcus Johnson

In an increasingly competitive drug industry, getting key patents on new treatments can be extremely lucrative and drive not only sales, but research and development for new drugs. In a unique move, pharmaceutical company UCB has created a global competition where individuals or families with unique health characteristics are awarded.

UCB is particularly interested in those families which have powerful healing capabilities, or low sensitivity to pain. The company is rewarding the top submission with $10,000. UCB’s goal is to find unique individuals or groups in order to study their genetic characteristics. If the genetic characteristics can be adapted into the pharmaceutical field, there stands a chance for innovation and hefty profits. UCB hopes that its global competition will help to bring interesting cases to them at a reasonable cost.

The Vice President of global exploratory development at UCB, Dr. Duncan McHale, said, "For example, individuals or groups who exhibited exceptional wound healing after surgery or trauma might warrant further investigation. Equally, those who have consistently displayed exceptional resistance or immunity to infections, or who, after a robust clinical diagnosis, displayed unusually fast or spontaneous disease remission might be the basis for a winning submission.”

One such interesting case was found a half decade ago in Pakistan. Researchers found a ten year old Pakistani child who worked as a street performer, able to walk on burning coals without experiencing pain due to a lack of a specific protein on their nerves. Scientists have discovered that he lacks a protein on the surface of his nerves and there are efforts to replicate this trait to treat severe pain.