A new automated design system could create drugs quicker and cheaper than is now possible, scientists say.

Testing new treatments can take years of laboratory tests and cost millions of pounds.

A statistical approach which builds on the model of an existing drug can analyse new data to speed up the work of chemists where drug molecules are steadily improved by successive cycles of design and selection.

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Researchers at Dundee University made the system which is being trialled on the creation of drugs to treat infectious diseases.

Professor of Informatics Andrew Hopkins said: "Potentially the system could make the process of drug creation more efficient by reducing failure rates in testing and showing chemists which of the potential thousands of solutions would be best-suited to their problem."