I look forward to that future "Sixth Sense" journey interoperating with OpenTox to revisit the Tamboti Trees in South Africa and the Mopane Trees in Namibia, and to test the delivery of safety advice from the distributed semantic knowledge of OpenTox 3.0 use cases in the field :)!
What are key innovation questions for the field of predictive toxicology? I propose we discuss the following questions at our Knowledge Cafe at the #OpenTox 2011 meeting in Munich. We can use the discussions as a basis to formulate an innovation white paper to provide direction to innovators who can accelerate developments in the field with strategy and technology development.
A. Mechanistic Strategies - What are the key innovations needed to accelerate progress?
B. Predictive Metabolism - What is needed for a complete and reliable prediction of metabolites?
C. Computational Chemistry - Emerging challenges and opportunities in receptor-mediated predictive toxicology
D. Systems Biology - How can we bridge the divide between modelling molecular pathways and quantitative prediction at the organelle level?
E. Integrated Analysis - Experimental designs for optimising biomarker discovery
F. Kinetics - Extrapolating in vitro data to model human hazard and exposure
G. Weight of Evidence - Developing holistic approaches to compound profiling and prioritisation-based decision making
H. Read Across and Categories - What are the key components for a more rigorous approach to a best practice?
I. Regulatory Needs - How do we accelerate the acceptance of emerging scientific methods in regulatory applications?
J. High Content Assays - What information can they provide today and what are the key gaps requiring new innovation?
Abstract submissions should be completed by 30 April for consideration for the conference program and bursary awards. Poster abstracts will continue to be accepted through 30 June, to be eligible for meeting-based review and innovation merit awards.
Last year we formed the “Scientists Against Malaria” (SAM) collaboration to apply modern drug design and modelling techniques in combination with industry standard infrastructure and interdisciplinary science to help develop new treatments against Malaria. The group’s first project assembles a number of leading academic researchers together with smaller innovative companies who are collaborating to develop novel inhibitors active against the Plasmodium parasite.
This is our first step in creating a collaboration learning machine for our community to enable and accelerate knowledge flow to progress the scientific research needed to develop new treatments against neglected diseases, which include other parasitic and tropical diseases, and diseases such as ALS which devastate people's health and are currently without any available treatment solutions.
Our drug design project involve situations when a number of partners collaborate to jointly solve molecular design problems as an early stage step in a drug discovery situation. The partners may involve commercial organisations, academic labs, and individual consultants who form a Virtual Organisation (VO) to collaborate on running the project, that typically has been historically carried out at a pharmaceutical organisation. The knowledge and experience of the partners involved is a critical resource and success factor for the project as is the ability to collaborate effectively. Additional resources include computer software and machinery for molecular design, modelling and virtual screening, experimental lab facilities for running assays and experiments on predicted hits for the problem studied, and supporting Information and Communications Technology (ICT) infrastructure. A significant amount of activity involving analysis, interpretation of results, synthesis and discussion is involved in many steps of the research process.
Computer-based models of Protein targets, Protein-Ligand and Protein-Protein interactions are built based on existing knowledge from crystal structures, physical chemistry and applications of bioinformatics and cheminformatics methods. A variety of methods including virtual screening, docking, pharmacophore-based design and free energy simulation methods are applied to the design of drug candidate molecules and their affinity for the target based on interactions such as involving specific hydrogen bonding and hydrophobic interactions with the active site of an enzyme. Holistic approaches to design also take into account specificity, cross-target interactions, Lipinski’s rule of 5 on druglikedness, ADME and toxicity properties of candidate molecules. Predictions are tested in the laboratory using a variety of experimental screening methods. High Throughput Screening (HTS) can be used to examine the activities of libraries of molecules against a target, whereas High Content Assays may probe a specific toxicity mechanism and property of a molecule.
A Lessons Learned process is run at the end of every significant process in the collaborative research workflow and prioritised lessons are documented into the VO knowledge base. Best Practices are agreed and documented at the start of the project. If best or better practices are discovered during the Lessons Learned process (e.g., on discussing “what went well”), they are documented into the VO knowledge base for future reference.
A complex event-driven engine is used to track all significant events occuring during the collaborative work and to provide recommendations with regards to traffic light situations (e.g., green: positive, red: negative, yellow: uncertain) where yellow situations may trigger discussion and further actions. The combination of people and infrastructure may evolve and improve as activity expands, thus becoming a Collaboration Learning Machine for Drug Discovery and Neglected Diseases Research.
I will discuss the activities of the Scientists Against Malaria (SAM) consortium at the BIO-IT conference in Boston, taking place 12 – 14 April 2011 in its collaborative drug discovery session (http://www.bio-itworldexpo.com/Bio-It_Expo_Content.aspx?id=101305). SAM was formed in 2010 from the InnovationWell Neglected Diseases Collaboration Pool as a virtual drug discovery organization to collaborate on the design of kinase inhibitors against the Plasmodium Malarial parasite. Work activities have included target selection and modelling, protein expression and assay development, computational drug design, and screening. Supported by developments on the EU FP7 funded SYNERGY and OpenTox projects, a combination of interoperable information systems, ontologies and web services were designed and deployed to manage the data, documents, computational and assay results, activity and toxicology predictions, as well as dashboards to track project progress and to support decision making. We will discuss our results, experiences and lessons learned to date, and future directions and opportunities for collaborative drug design based on our virtual organization approach.
On Sunday May 30 we host an OpenTox Workshop near Berlin in Potsdam that will bring many leading international research program directors and leaders together to discuss how collaboration and the increased linking of resources over the World Wide Web could progress human safety research and safety assessment. By linking resources and data increasingly powerful computer-based models can be built for predicting and avoiding unwanted adverse toxic side effects of drugs, chemicals, ingredients in soaps and cosmetics, pesticides etc. thus enhancing human safety and protecting the environment better. Such methods should also eventually lead to the replacement of many animal experiments.
Neglected diseases such as parasitic infections reek havoc on many communities in different parts of the world. As part of our committment to responsible, sustainable development and a community culture, we will make neglected disease problems, where we evaluate we can make a significant difference, a goal of our collaborative virtual organisations in years to come. Please contact me to discuss your ideas and also consider joining the new Collaboration Pools summarised at bottom of this post. We can also work together on new funding opportunities.
However and also, my experiences in Africa, for example on our conservation trip to the remote Caprivi Delta region of Namibia: http://barryhardy.blogs.com/theferryman/2009/02/experiences-from-expedition-work-in-the-caprivi-delta.html (please keep in mind this post was based on a summary for my younger son for awareness!), was that "small contributions" can make a big difference. One story from that trip was the inability of a local clinic to deal with the torn foot of one of our party, and we ended up stitching him up with a veterinary kit back at base camp. Once that was done, how would he get around we asked, as there were no crutches to be had locally?! Discussing the incident around the camp fire afterwards, we came up with the simple solution of each throwing some money into a "needles and crutches" hat, and that was able to buy needles and crutches for the local clinic to keep them going for a couple of years, and it could be directly organised. So in this reality-focused context something like $200 made a bigger difference on the real problem for the future than a (possibly failed) major $100m program. A bit of a stretched analogy, but you probably get the point.
We intend to continue our support of sustainable development work in the community in Caprivi in community-involved wild life conservation development, and look forward to our next trip, and others in the community who might be interested. Let me know, if this might be for you too.
Here I would like to draw attention to a new local initiative in the area to help support the families affected by a widespread HIV infection epidemic. There is need for education, healthcare, and support of the many orphans left behind by parents who simply die from untreated HIV infection. Consider what you might do by volunteering some simple help and support to the work out there. The new center is called TAG Volunteers (TAG for think-act-grow):
I vouch this is a real legitimate project as Ronel, the woman setting it up, was also very much involved in competently running the important activities at our base camp on our last visit, such as getting something to eat when we got back very tired and hungry from our trips into the bush!
Welcome your feedback. If you do decide to take some time out to volunteering in some way, I suspect you will find it rewarding. And it is also at the same time such a special and beautiful country to experience!
We are establishing an InnovationWell Collaboration Pool of individuals and organisations who have an interest in collaborating together in areas of healthcare and life science innovation. For example, a selection of Pool members could participate in a collaborative life science, systems biology or predictive toxicology project, develop a funding proposal or response to a call opportunity together, or develop an innovation or best practice.
Collaborations will take a virtual organisation approach, i.e., partners can bring contributing knowledge, computational or experimental capabilities to a partnership for the duration of a project or other endeavour.
We will run two such virtual organisation (VO) projects for the first time this year starting later this Spring: A) Drug Design project which will examine the application of a variety of leading modelling and design approaches to novel target kinases, to experimentally test predictions, and to initiate a best practices virtual screening resource. B) Predictive Toxicology project to apply a combination of in silico and in vitro approaches to predict in vivo toxicity including exposure.
Both VOs will be supported by a variety of leading modelling and design software, informatics infrastructure, and collaborative content management and electronic lab notebook systems.
The VOs will be supported by knowledge-oriented collaboration services developed under the FP7 Synergy research project, including a reactive complex event driven engine, collaboration moderator, collaboration pattern services and partner knowledge base.
The Predictive Toxicology VO will be supported by distributed REST-driven web services for data management, model building, validation and reporting, developed under the OpenTox Framework (http://www.opentox.org/)
We will also consider incorporation of Case Studies into the eCheminfo Drug Discovery and Predictive ADME/Tox workshops to be held in Oxford this summer. See http://echeminfo.com/