Philosophy > Animal Testing

Software can cut drug tests on animals
Research revolution at university
Kathryn Moore
January 16, 2006

A YORKSHIRE company is undertaking work which will reduce animal testing and speed up the roll out of drugs.

Simcyp, a University of Sheffield spin-out company, produces software used by pharmaceutical companies and academics to solve drug development problems.

The software predicts the effect of drugs in the human body, taking into account the patient's age, sex and height. As a result, fewer tests will be carried out on animals.

The software is licensed by 28 pharmaceutical research and development sites world-wide, and by eight universities for teaching and research purposes.

Founded in 2001, Simcyp has recently appointed Leeds-based law firm Fox Hayes to handle the licensing of its drug modelling software.

Simcyp managing director John Evans, said the software allowed pharmaceutical researchers to identify patients at risk from negative reactions.

He added: "This will help the industry to improve the selection and design of subsequent clinical trials."

A special module in the Simcyp programme has also been developed to focus on how drugs affect children, including newborn babies.

Simcyp is trading profitably, and in August 2005 announced that it had signed long-term contracts with a number of leading pharmaceutical companies worth in excess of �1.5m in the first half of 2005.

The firm is supported by Biofusion, the Alternative Investment Market (Aim) quoted company formed to back university spin-outs from Sheffield.

Simcyp has created a consortium of pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, regulatory institutions and academics who can use its software. Members of the consortium include Viagra-maker Pfizer, Astra Zeneca, as well as the University of Manchester.

Biofusion has signed a 10-year exclusive deal with Sheffield University to put its knowledge of medical life sciences to commercial use.

The company listed on Aim last year in order to raise �8m for further development. Among Biofusion's main companies is Axordia, the human embryonic stem cell portfolio company, which has provided four of the first stem cell lines into the UK Stem Cell Bank.

Another company is CellTran, which has developed a skin treatment for burns and ulcers using a patient' living cells. It transplants them on to wounds, which avoids the body's natural hostile reaction to foreign cells.

Liz Ward, a former biochemist and head of intellectual property at Fox Hayes, said: "The licensing of the Simcyp software will allow the pharmaceutical industry and university to improve drug modelling and associated research. The overall result will be a reduction in the risk of adverse reaction, improved prescription labelling, and accelerated provision of new drugs to the public."

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