Though modeling and computation have been in use in science for over two decades, some of their results are only now beginning to be noticed. Using data generated in technological cores and services, researchers can harness computers’ potential to perform broader analyses and calculations over shorter periods of time. Thus, progress has been made in projects of a basic and applied nature that aim to determine the role played by intrinsically disordered proteins in multiple myeloma or in the monitoring of cancer progression.
In addition to being used to understand the origin of many pathologies and track their evolution, the power of computation can be key in the development of new drugs. As said by Jordi Quintana in remarks to Biocores, “it’s possible to analyze interactions between chemistry and biology to predict the results that a molecule could achieve when testing it with in vitro or in vivo models.” Quintana, director of the drug discovery platform of the Parc Científic de Barcelona also stated that the use of computation has made it possible to reduce the number of experimental animals used in this type of studies.
Image: from left to right, Víctor Guallar (BSC-CNS) and Modesto Orozco (IRB Barcelona). Source: IRB Barcelona.
This is not the only example of the possibilities offered by computational simulation in the research and design of new drugs and biotechnological molecules. The Institute for Research in Biomedicine of Barcelona (IRB) and the Barcelona Supercomputing Center-Centro Nacional de Supercomputación (BSC-CNS) recently presented Nostrum BioDiscovery, a spin-off company whose mission is to accelerate the R&D+i of innovative drugs through computation. The firm has “state-of-the-art bioinformatic technologies to expedite and economize the design process for increasingly complex and costly drugs, and advance toward precision medicine.”
Nostrum BioDiscovery has cutting-edge computer resources and calculation capacity to improve the rapidity and efficacy of the research processes necessary for the development of new medications. According to Modesto Orozco, scientist at IRB Barcelona, “there are no more easy-to-discover drugs. Fewer and fewer drugs are launched each year, and those launched are extraordinarily expensive. Computational simulation doesn’t work miracles, but it does allow a significant shortening of the drug development process, increasing their therapeutic potential. This has a positive impact on the entire process.” Orozco, also a full professor of the University of Barcelona (UB), will take over as president of Nostrum BioDiscovery, a business project catalyzed by the Fundación Botín through the Mind the Gap program. The scientists at IRB Barcelona and BSC-CNS have also received backing from the Bosch i Gimpera Foundation (UB) and the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA).
Image: presentation of Nostrum BioDiscovery, a spin-off that will apply super-computing and bioinformatic techniques to the development of new drugs. Source: IRB Barcelona.
According to experts, the application of computation to the research and development of drugs could make for “savings equivalent to 40 million euros for every new drug, or 15-20% less cost in the initial phase, in which an estimated average of 300 million euros are invested.” Nostrum BioDiscovery has come into being in times of a profound reconversion of the pharmaceutical industry, with an ever-growing number of R&D+i projects being outsourced to third parties. According to Víctor Guallar, scientist at the BSC-CNS and director of Nostrum BioDiscovery’s Scientific Advisory Board, “the quality of our technologies and the experience of our team make us a reliable alternative for companies seeking rapidity and efficiency in the initial phases of pharmaceutical design.” The Barcelona spin-off is joining the ranks of other projects in which technological cores and services specialized in bioinformatics and computation help accelerate and improve the effectiveness of basic and applied studies and analyses in biomedicine.