Drug Repurposing and Medicines Research Program

Drug repurposing involves investigating new uses for approved drugs. ​ 

We identify a clinical problem with an urgent need, such as treatment-resistant ovarian and brain cancers, and develop a suite of potential therapies for clinical use. ​ 

Medicines research includes all areas of research that develop or improve the use of new, old and approved drugs, including alternative medicines such as cannabis.​ 

We take innovative approaches to rapidly repurposing drugs for populations that urgently need better treatments, therapeutic drug monitoring to ensure patients receive the correct dose (e.g. chemotherapy dosing) and translating our research into practice through clinical trials and policy. ​ 

This covers the entire translational spectrum – from discovery lab-based research through clinical trials to clinical use and policy development.​ 

Research Areas

While the discovery and development of new drugs remains essential for the treatment of cancer and other diseases, a ‘new’ drug requires approximately 12-16 years development time and an investment of US$1-2 billion to achieve regulatory approval. This means that it often takes a long time for new treatments for a range of illnesses to make it to patients. 

In contrast, repurposing an ‘old’ drug for a new therapeutic use takes on average 6.5 years to obtain approval and an investment of ‘only’ US$300 million. A combination of both traditional drug development and drug repurposing is therefore prudent if we are to make timely inroads into treating cancer more efficiently and deliver a significant impact on human health. 

Drug repurposing, also known as ‘drug repositioning’ or ‘switching’, is a method for identifying new uses for approved or investigational drugs that are outside the scope of the original intended or approved medical use. Repurposed drugs are attractive because they offer substantial cost efficiencies in comparison to drug discovery, and because therapeutic advances and development of new drug options for many patients have been far slower than expected. Whilst we need both approaches, drug repurposing has three main advantages over traditional drug discovery. 

  1. Safety, dosing and toxicity of repurposing drug candidates is already known, thus allowing;   

  1. Faster pathway to Phase 2 trials; and 

  1. Reduced research cost and overall financial investment. 

Firstly, using existing drugs for new purposes reduces the time for drug development by utilising what is already known about those drugs, including their pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, common and uncommon toxicities, dosing schedule, and mechanism of action. This means, secondly, that most steps of the preclinical and early clinical development phases can be bypassed. As such, drug repurposing presents a significantly faster pathway into Phase 2 trials in comparison to traditional drug discovery and development where the safety, dosing and toxicity profile of new drugs is not known. As a result, development-related financial investment is substantially reduced and the time to reach patients is significantly shorter. 

Associate Professor Nikola Bowden
Research Program :
  • Drug Repurposing and Medicines Research Program
Research Topics :
Melanoma, Ovarian & Endometrial Cancer
Professor Jennifer Martin
Research Program :
  • Drug Repurposing and Medicines Research Program
Research Topics :
Brain Cancer, Breast Cancer, Effective Medicines, Preventing Cardiovascular Disease, Stress and Addictive Disorders