It can run pharmaceutical companies upwards of $1 billion to put new medication into the hands of patients and pharmacies', meaning the need to develop cost-effective ways to get new drugs on shelves is crucial. Sivanesan Dakshanamurthy and his colleagues at Georgetown University have developed a system that they think will streamline the process of identifying new uses for old medications: Train-Match-Fit-Streamline (TMFS).

The pharmaceutical industry has a long and storied history of converting drugs used for one condition for use on another condition. One of the major compounds in Viagra, for example, was used for treating heart disease symptoms, like hypertension. However, in most cases, these discoveries of new uses were haphazard, happy accidents

Their method is an improvement over the cost-inefficient way of pairing old drugs with new uses. TMFS uses 11 factors to quickly pair conditions and drugs. According to the abstract, "The TMFS method combines shape, topology, and chemical signatures, including docking score and functional contact points of the ligand, to predict potential drug–target interactions with remarkable accuracy. Using the TMFS method, we performed extensive molecular fit computations on 3671 FDA approved drugs across 2335 human protein crystal structures."

Currently, the approach of developing and marketing new drugs is expensive, which is why Dakshanamurthy and his team believe that the practice must be limited. They think that use of this method will cut down on development and marketing costs for new medications.

Their study describes how TMFS led them to discover that Celebrex, a popular medication for inflammation and pain, can be used to treat a cancer that has been difficult to treat. Dakshanamurthy and his team also state that their analysis found that a treatment for the parasitic hookworm could be used to cut off the supply to cancerous cells, cutting off their capacity to grow and spread. They say that TMFS could be used to analyze any of the 27,000 compounds active in medications developed and marketed worldwide.

The study was published in the Journal of Medicinal History.