Web-based system will speed drug discoveries at Indiana University

Bloomington 01 December 2005The process of developing new disease-fighting drugs will be accelerated because of research now under way at the Indiana University (IU) School of Informatics and the IU Community Grids Lab. The School has received a grant from Microsoft Smart Clients for eScience to develop a prototype of a Web service and intelligent agent-based system for the potential deployment in the pharmaceutical industry. It is expected the development of such tools will enable scientists to more quickly amass the information they need in their decision-making about which chemical compounds are most likely to be safe, effective drugs.


"Currently, early-stage drug discovery is experiencing an information overload, and what results from the prototype we build will make the computer do the grunt work of sorting the information for scientists", stated David J. Wild, Ph.D., assistant professor of informatics. Joining David Wild in developing these computing tools with the $49.000 Microsoft grant is Marlon Pierce, Ph.D., a research associate at the Community Grids Lab, which is part of IU's Pervasive Technology Labs.

There is a trend toward making computational chemistry and molecular modelling techniques more accessible to chemists through desktop tools, the IU researchers note. "However, deployment of these technologies in labs is often haphazard, and no serious study has been carried out on how these technologies can work together and integrate into the laboratory environment in the most effective way for the chemist", stated David Wild.

David Wild's and Marlon Pierce's research adds to IU's already-strong chemical informatics research programme. A School of Informatics-led team recently received a $500.000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to establish the Chemical Informatics and Cyberinfrastructure Collaboratory (CICC). The project is headed by Geoffrey C. Fox, Ph.D., professor of informatics and director of the Community Grids Lab.

The CICC seeks to devise a system of diverse and easily expandable databases, simulation engines and other tools that use emerging high-capacity computer networks and data repositories and develop Grid and Web technology. Their research will help chemists better understand drug synthesis and lead to new therapies for cancer, Alzheimer's disease and other disorders.

The Indiana University School of Informatics offers a unique, interdisciplinary curriculum that focuses on developing specialized skills and knowledge of information technology. The School has a variety of undergraduate degrees and specialized master's and doctorate degrees in bioinformatics, chemical informatics, health informatics, human-computer interaction, laboratory informatics, new media and computer science. Each degree is an interdisciplinary endeavour that combines course work and field experiences from a traditional subject area or discipline with intensive study of information and technology.

Pervasive Technology Labs at Indiana University, established in 1999 by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., performs leading-edge research based on the ubiquity of information technology in today's world, creating new inventions, devices, and software that extend the capabilities of information technology in advanced research and everyday life. Fundamental to its mission are efforts to attract, encourage, educate, and retain Indiana's workforce of tomorrow, and to accelerate economic growth in the State through the commercialization of new inventions and by forming and supporting new start-up companies. In carrying out its mission, Pervasive Technology Labs is helping Indiana University maintain its position of international leadership in information technology research and, as a result, is helping to enhance the prosperity of the entire State of Indiana.

More news about the Chemical Informatics and Cyberinfrastructure Collaboratory is available in the VMW November 2005 article Indiana University collaboration strengthens search for new drug discoveries.

Leslie Versweyveld

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