Sonia Pérez
Executive Director
UDIBI
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View from the Top

Mexican Research Institute Aims to Become a Platform for R&D

Tue, 11/20/2018 - 18:35

Q: What are the main research lines carried out by UDIBI? What are the institute’s most mature products?
A: UDIBI has three main development axes: new projects from Transferon, innovation in antibody research with new targets and services to the pharmaceutical industry. Transferon is a blood product extracted from cells and one of our goals is to obtain it through synthetic means. It is formed by a very complex mixture of peptides, so we are elucidating its composition using peptide analysis techniques. We are also selecting the molecules with greater biological activity to develop new products for the treatment of tumors, infections and hypersensitivities. We are now conducting tests to identify new therapeutic uses for Transferon, which will give us time to develop these new peptides.
Q: What were the main challenges in the development of Transferon?
A: One of the main problems was that its nature as a complex mixture of peptides clashed with old analytical techniques to study medications. Not too long ago, most medications were small molecules that followed traditional pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics in order to be evaluated by a regulatory entity. The generation of complex molecules represented a challenge for pharmacists, manufacturers and regulators, who had to develop new ways of dealing with these drugs. Complex molecules behave differently from small molecules and will exhibit completely different pharmacodynamics and behavior in the human body. They are also harder to track and quantify. For that reason, it was necessary to develop new guidelines that addressed these medications. Transferon is a mixture of peptides and for that reason its behavior was not perfectly understood until the appropriate techniques were developed to characterize it.
Q: What have been the main challenges in getting the medical community to accept products of this type?
A: Many in the medical community have been extremely open to new treatments and therapies, making it easier for us to conduct clinical trials. Interestingly, we previously had to work hard to convince doctors to allow us to carry out clinical trials with them but now the institutions themselves are interested in testing our products.
Q: What are the main capabilities of UDIBI’s antibody research unit?
A: Our antibody research unit has partnered with US Global Bio to develop platforms and libraries for antibody discovery. What distinguishes this platform is that it is made up of 200 Mexican researchers. This platform allowed us to offer our research services to international laboratories, mainly in the US, and we are planning to offer services of this kind in Mexico.
We are developing a chikungunya antigen to develop antibodies for passive therapy and diagnostics and antibodies for tumor necrosis factor (TNF). We also perform discovery on demand for the US, where they send us the targets and we develop antibodies for them. One of these was launched with the Trudeau Institute.
Q: What are the main barriers to the development of Mexican R&D?
A: There are many barriers. The first is the lack of a legal framework that facilitates this process. Second, there is a lack of knowledge among academic researchers about how to develop and launch a product to the market. Another large problem researchers face in Mexico is dealing with the complex process to acquire materials for their research, since getting an approval to buy a product can take up to three months and the logistics to reach a research center can take 45 days. There have been numerous federal initiatives to streamline our supply chain but they have not been successful. Importing products is extremely complex as there are many intermediaries and customs issues but these problems have a greater impact on public research institutions, while private companies have managed to control them.