The Harvard Program in Therapeutic Science, or HiTS, a collaborative endeavor aimed at enhancing and eventually leading efforts to reinvent how therapeutic drugs and devices are discovered and evaluated, formally launched in June. Heading this effort is Peter Sorger, the Otto Krayer Professor of Systems Pharmacology at HMS.
Sorger, a leader in the field of systems biology, focuses his research on pathways that control life-and-death decisions in human cancers by incorporating both experimental and computational biology.
Joining the leadership team is Laura Maliszewski, executive director of HiTS. Marc Kirschner, chair of the HMS Department of Systems Biology and the John Franklin Enders University Professor of Systems Biology, will serve as senior scientific advisor.
“We need a comprehensive approach to rethinking how we go about the most fundamental processes of drug discovery,” Sorger says. “The truth is, we simply don’t understand how most drugs work, particularly in terms of patient-to-patient variability and the emergence of resistance. In industry, timelines are necessarily too tight and programs too focused to delve deeply into some of the most intriguing therapeutic questions. By contrast, academia is equipped to study basic, open-ended questions and to partner with industry when the ideas are ready for development into actual drugs.”
The program will include new research and education programs involving collaborations among HMS and other Harvard schools, HMS-affiliated hospitals and research institutes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the pharmaceutical industry, and other Boston-area universities.
“Therapeutics has been at the forefront of my priorities as dean,” Flier wrote in a letter to HMS faculty announcing the launch. “Over the past few years I have been keenly aware of the crisis in the pharmaceutical pipeline, how the vast investments required by traditional pharmaceutical development are not yielding needed therapies, and how a deep solution to this problem will require that new concepts and models be developed within the academy.”
HiTS comprises four components: the Laboratory of Systems Pharmacology, with Sorger serving as director, and Tim Mitchison, the Hasib Sabbagh Professor of Systems Biology at HMS, as deputy director; the Therapeutics Technology Cluster, directed by Stephen Blacklow ’88, head of the Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at HMS, with Caroline Shamu, director of the HMS Institute of Chemistry and Cell Biology, as assistant director; the Program in Regulatory Science; and the Therapeutics Graduate Program, led by David Golan, HMS dean for graduate education.