9 old drugs that learned new tricks: The head of the National Institutes of Health shares medicines that turned out to have multiple uses

Originally posted on TED Blog:

AZT

A look at the crystallites of AZT, the first antiviral approved for the treatment of HIV/AIDS. Originally, AZT was created to treat cancer — but it failed in tests.

When you pop a pill, do you know how it works? Most modern drugs target specific molecules, interacting with disease at the molecular level. But while we know the molecular causes of roughly 4,000 diseases, a very slim 6 percent of those diseases have a safe and effective drug to treat them. Why? Because of the incredible difficulty and cost of finding a compound that is perfectly shaped to interact with a molecular cause, and that also happens to be safe.

Francis Collins, the Director of the National Institutes of Health, wants to help this process along. [ted_talkteaser id=1696]In yesterday’s talk, given at TEDMED 2012, Collins makes a bold case for translational research to produce better drugs, faster. What…

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