NCI's proposed Chemical Biology Consortium (CBC) will establish an integrated network of chemical biologists, molecular oncologists, and compound screening centers from government, academia, and eventually from industry. The program is being developed by NCI's Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis (DCTD), in conjunction with NCI's Center for Cancer Research (CCR) and the NCI Director's office, to facilitate the discovery and development of new agents to treat cancer.
"The long-term vision of the CBC is to bridge the gap between basic scientific findings - for example, The Cancer Genome Atlas and genome-wide association studies - and NCI-supported clinical research," noted DCTD Director Dr. James Doroshow.
Dr. Barbara Mroczkowski, special assistant to the DCTD director, is a project lead for CBC. She came to NCI after 15 years in industry.
"NCI has all this intellectual capital, all the investigators, and everything you need for the late-stage development of clinical compounds," Dr. Mroczkowski said. However, she found that "support for early phase 'discovery' of novel compounds that work against newly discovered molecular and genetic targets for cancer needed to be upgraded." NCI's leadership, in establishing the CBC, saw that there was a need to fill that gap.
NCI received an enthusiastic response to this idea from top-tier, nonprofit chemical biology compound screening centers in the United States, including many centers already participating in the NIH Molecular Libraries Small Molecule Repository program. "These centers have state-of-the-art, high-throughput screening capacity and have the capability and collections of thousands of compounds" that can be useful to CBC, said Dr. Mroczkowski.
The screening centers and other investigators are attracted by NCI's proposal to give CBC participants open access to the institute's late-stage drug development toxicology, pharmacology, and formulation resources, as well as the expertise of NCI's Developmental Therapeutics Program (DTP). CBC members will also benefit from access to NCI's Center for Advanced Preclinical Research, which grew out of NCI's Mouse Models of Human Cancers Consortium efforts and uses genetically engineered mouse models.
In addition, the two NCI research divisions involved with CBC are hiring additional staff with expertise in the discovery field, including a new chemical biology branch chief in CCR and several medicinal chemists in DCTD. The program will benefit from active project management by NCI and its external advisory boards. CBC participants will be managed via a contract mechanism and the data and materials generated by individual members will be added to a centralized data and warehousing system and shared among all CBC members.
Management of intellectual property rights will be a critical factor in the success of CBC. "That issue has been very much at the forefront of our discussions," noted Dr. Doroshow, who explained that a Request for Information solicited feedback on this from potential partners. "We've created an intellectual property and data-sharing plan for CBC that the various investigators have to review and agree to as the basis for participating in the program," he added.
According to Dr. Joseph Tomaszewski, deputy director of DCTD and the NCI lead for this project, "NCI will issue a Request for Proposals through SAIC-Frederick to solicit contractors to participate in CBC later this year."