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Pharmacology and drug development in rare diseases: the attractiveness and expertise of the French medical pharmacology


Developing drugs for rare disease can be challenging due to specific rare disease characteristics. The French Medical Pharmacology is structured and positioned to play a major role in Orphan Drug Research and Development due to the required expertise concentrated into pharmacology departments, exclusively implemented within the French University Hospitals, public hospitals that are linked to a medical school (and often a pharmacy school) with numerous INSERM or CNRS labelled research units.

In addition, these structures allow a close collaboration between researchers, academic institutions and biotech start‐up (most of them being spin‐off of the academic structures). Also, within University Hospitals are located the Clinical investigation Centres, linking to the FCRIN network and also to Inserm and hospitals, that enable care staff and researchers to be associated and clinical research protocols to be carried out on site, in full respect with ethic and regulatory aspects.

As a consequence, this intra and multidisciplinary expertise offers all resource to elaborate a tailored approach for orphan drug development, in new entities as well as in repositioning. For preclinical development: drug screening, candidate selection (taking into account PK, metabolism, variability, potential toxicity), preclinical models (iPS, animal models) that could allow a better translation to human research. For clinical development, we will mention here dose determination, safety evaluation, Orphan Drug Designation and Protocol Assistance preparation and submission. For post marketing evaluation and surveys, the pharmacovigilance, addictovigilance and pharmacoepidemiology expertise, combined with access to large databases allow a better approach to orphan drug use and safety.

As outlined through two success stories (Charcot Marie Tooth, vascular Ehlers‐Danlos syndrome), the added value of French Medical Pharmacology structures and expertise has been evidenced in the know‐how, multidimensional and multidisciplinary approaches, allowing the development of numerous drugs that have been granted with Orphan Drug Designation and later Market Approval. Even if specific and possibly even more, the field of Orphan Drugs requires the respect of highest standards of safety and quality. French Medical Pharmacology intends to continue on this way and constantly improve his involvement in this field, committed to a single objective: answer the unmet medical need of patients with rare diseases.

This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Authors:   Joëlle Micallef, Pierre Boutouyrie, Olivier Blin
Journal:   Fundamental & Clinical Pharmacology
Year:   2017
Pages:   n/a
DOI:   10.1111/fcp.12314
Publication date:   05-Aug-2017
Facts, background information, dossiers
  • Research
  • Inserm
  • drugs
  • clinical development
  • animal models
  • Addition
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