Piramal Life Sciences Ltd (PLSL) on Friday said its drug discovery partnership with Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has entered the second stage to find new medicines for various diseases, including cancer and diabetes.

Government of India and PLSL expect to find new drugs from 14,000 bioactive cultures discovered in a nationwide search for new drugs from biodiverse habitats across the country in collaboration with nine national institutes, PLSL said in a statement.

As per the initiative, which is jointly funded by PLSL and DBT, a total of 2.45 lakh different microbes were collected and characterised at national centres, it said.

“Extracts from these microbes were screened for biological activities across four different therapeutic areas namely cancer, diabetes, inflammation and infectious diseases,” it added.

Based on the results of these studies, the team has identified greater than 14,000 cultures that showed potent activities in the above disease conditions, it said.

All these cultures are in the process of classification and storage in a national repository created by DBT at the National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS).

“This enormous database is a starting point for the isolation of novel scaffolds that may be useful for developing drugs,” it said.

The team has now moved ahead for the second phase of the programme to identify and characterise the chemical entity which is responsible for the bioactivity described for the extracts.

“With the integration of high end technology platforms both in biology and chemistry, rapidity in isolation has been achieved, and 1,000 extracts out of the 14,000 will be evaluated within the next one and half years to obtain lead molecules,” the company said.

The company plans to take advantage of the high end chemistry platforms that can handle batches of more than 500 extracts at a time and follow them through dereplication database analysis for recognising the active molecules.

PLSL and DBT had in 2007 kicked off their joint initiative to find new drugs.

Shares of PLSL on Friday closed at Rs. 96.05 on Bombay Stock Exchange, up 4.52 per cent from its previous close.