Finding New Approved Drug Indications Can Benefit Companies with Better Market Share


Pharmaceutical companies are now looking to make broader strokes by creating therapeutics that target a wider swath of disease. Image Source: Flickr User:Iqbal Osman1

After many years of experimentation and seemingly endless work on medications with multiple indications, drug companies are beginning to see their hard work pay off. From reassigning drugs from the orphan drug list to specifically creating broader reaching therapeutics, pharmaceutical companies are beginning to see the benefits of creating broad spectrum therapeutics. In early November the FDA approved Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Opdivo (Nivolumab) for use in head-and-neck cancer. The implementation of Opdivo as a treatment for cancer is a perfect example of a broad-reaching therapeutic, as it already has a sizeable list of implications. 1

While designing and testing a medication like Opdivo that treats multiple disorders can help companies cut down on early stage costs and increase end profits, it is easier said than done, especially considering the amount of information being sifted through and the sheer number of people needed to collaborate. However, with recent advances in lab software, it is easier to accelerate drug design and development, and the possibilities for medications with a wider scope are well within sight.

Identifying Common Targets Between Disorders and Illnesses

Although cancer can have many different passenger and driver mutations, there are a number that are common and easily targetable. Opdivo targets one of these mutations at the protein itself, upregulated PD-1. PD-1 is a cell surface protein associated with programmed cell death, allowing for immune evasion in cancer. Opdivo targets PD-1 receptors, which mitigates the survival of tumour cells which are attempting to be overlooked by the immune system. This antibody therapy has been shown to prolong patient lives in melanoma, non-small-cell lung cancer, renal cancer, and, now, head-and-neck cancer.2 This is a breakthrough for patients, physicians and pharmaceutical companies alike; by creating and testing a medication for multiple forms of cancer using modern lab software, there is the potential for more first-line alternatives to chemotherapy which has the potential to decrease patient discomfort.

When developing broader reaching therapeutics, it is important to look beyond the scope of the one disease being treated. For example, PD-1 is a protein that has also been implicated in HIV. And while Opdivo is unlikely to have any beneficial implications for HIV patients, it’s an important reminder that dysfunctional protein expression in one class of disorders may be observed elsewhere, and potentially treated by the same drug.

With recent innovations in modern lab software, researchers are able to accelerate their drug design by interweaving in silico and in vivo/in vitro experiments. In the case of an antibody therapy like Opdivo, researchers can perform in silico assessments to see how feasible it is to use this particular therapeutic across varieties of cancer, based on the data accumulated from physical experiments. Additionally, they are able to generate computer models of the role of PD-1 in HIV to determine if this antibody therapy could interact in a positive therapeutic way, or be used for further investigations into the programmed death pathway in HIV.3

Next Steps for Investigators and Pharmaceutical Companies

As researchers move forward into this undiscovered and appealing territory, there are some important steps that can be taken to ensure success:

  • Data Access: By improving access to high quality scientific information and data, labs are more likely to discover new indications which extend beyond initial targets. A drug that has been developed and abandoned may find new life, so long as information is accessible across the organization as knowledge expands.


  • In Silico Modelling: Using innovative software to create models will save both time and money. It allows researchers to look at the drug kinetics and behaviours before ever approaching clinical trials, potentially even before in vitro testing. This will allow for broader spectrum candidates to be identified earlier on and for necessary tweaks to be made before wasting money on failed clinical trials.

BIOVIA OneLab is a multifaceted software solution that can improve research efficiency and productivity in both large and small research organizations. Whether your group is developing drugs or striving to untangle their safety and efficacy profiles, this software can help you find answers more quickly, without compromising research quality. Contact us today to learn more about this technology and our other software offerings.

  1. “FDA nod helps BMS’ Opdivo even the head-and-neck cancer score with Merck’s Keytruda,” November 11, 2016,
  2. “Bristol-Myers Opdivo Cancer Drug Gets FDA OK (BMY),” November 14, 2016,
  3. “Role of PD-1 in HIV Pathogenesis and as a Target for Therapy,” March 2012,