A collaboration unveiled last week hopes to find a new formula for converting promising molecules into investment-worthy drugs. Comprised of several leading California universities and the nonprofit research institute SRI International, the PharmaSTART consortium will help the universities conduct the early testing of molecules usually performed by non-academic institutions, including biotech and pharmaceutical companies.

Universities traditionally do not have experience with the practical nature of converting a laboratory discovery into a marketable product, but SRI does, said Glenn Rice, vice president of SRI's biosciences division. To help its partners carry out early testing of new molecules themselves, SRI will work with researchers at Stanford University and the Universities of California in San Francisco and San Diego (UCSD) to devise a "drug development roadmap," describing the steps they need to take to determine if a drug is worth testing in humans, Rice said.

Although SRI may be eventually be hired...

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