SciLifeLab researchers from Stockholm University have found that drug repurposing, which is when known drugs can be used to treat other diseases than they are approved for, is much more effective than previously believed. On average, drugs could potentially be repurposed on 11 times more diseases than their indication.
In a recent study, published in Nature Scientific Reports and led by SciLifeLab researcher Erik Sonnhammer (Stockholm University), researchers systematically evaluated to what extent therapeutic opportunities could be obtained from drug repurposing by connecting drug targets with different disease genes. They found that drugs on average could be repurposed on 11 times more diseases than their indication, which shows the great potential of repurposing.
They further analyzed how drugs target disease network modules – clusters of disease genes in the network – and applied this to rank drugs targeting COVID‑19 based on their disease module coverage. The results showed that Fostamatinib was the drug with the highest module coverage for COVID-19.
The study also showed that drug repurposing is more dependent on target proteins being shared between diseases than on polypharmacological properties of drugs, i.e. the ability to target more than one protein.