Novel search engine speeds up drug research

By Wai Lang Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Disease, Cancer

Scientists have come up with an innovative tool that may accelerate
the drug development process, which has slowed down considerably
despite the investment in new technologies and analytical
techniques.

Despite advances in the understanding of biological systems, drug discovery is still a long process. Whilst information on the human genome, its sequence and what it encodes has been hailed as the answer to virtually eliminate the bottleneck in therapeutic targets, the full potential is still a long way off.

The tool consists of a search engine that is connected to a giant database. The intention is the two elements work in tandem to connect human diseases with potential drugs to treat them, as well as predict how new drugs work in human cells.

The tool, known as Connectivity Map allows researchers to screen compounds against genome wide disease signatures, rather than a pre-selected set of target genes.

Drugs are paired with diseases using sophisticated pattern-matching methods with a high level of resolution and specificity.

"This is a powerful discovery tool for the scientific community,"​ said Justin Lamb, the lead author of the paper, published in Science.

"By analysing just a small fraction of available drugs, we have already confirmed several biological connections between drugs and human disease, and made entirely new ones, too,"​ he added.

This research effort aims to generate a detailed map that links gene patterns associated with disease to corresponding patterns produced by drug candidates and a variety of genetic manipulations.

The Connectivity Map is the work of The Broad Institute, a research collaboration involving faculty, professional staff and students from throughout the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard academic and medical communities and is governed jointly by the two universities.

The Connectivity Map is the subject of three new research papers that are published in the journals Science and Cancer Cell.

Related topics: Preclinical Research

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