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Can You Teach Old Drugs New Tricks?
Scientific American

When a young physician opted to do a short stint in Grant Churchill’s pharmacology lab as part of his medical training, he asked for a task that would quickly teach him the tools of the trade. “So I thought, ‘I have a good project for you’,” says Churchill.

That was in 2010, and Churchill’s group at the University of Oxford, UK, was looking for ways to treat bipolar disorder without using lithium—a drug that often works well, but is plagued with side effects. So Churchill asked the physician, Justyn Thomas, to screen all of the 450 compounds in the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Collection, a library of drugs that had passed safety tests in humans but, for various reasons, had never reached the market. “That stuff is just sitting there, and it doesn’t take much effort,” says Churchill, “so you think you just have to try.”