"One of the most important R&D strategies to achieve a significant gain of efficiency is to tap into external knowledge and expertise through a network of external alliances, sharing the risk, reward and control. Given the large investments in drug research, virtualisation provides a great savings potential", summarized Professor Ulrich Trottenberg, director of Fraunhofer Institute for Algorithms and Scientific Computing SCAI, the SIMDAT project co-ordinator, the current challenges in pharmaceutical drug discovery.
GSK, with its firm foundation in science and a track record of turning its research into powerful, marketable drugs, spends more than GBP300.000 (US$562.000) every hour to find new medicines to treat six major disease areas - asthma, virus control, infections, mental health, diabetes and digestive conditions. GSK is also an expert in the important area of vaccines and develops new treatments for cancer.
"With the distributed nature and diverse location of biological data for disease and medical treatment, it is becoming vital to be able to fast and flexible connect to these resources. Grid as a key part of Information Technology supports the organisations' rapid movement into the virtualised and now more globalised information market", stated Rob Gill, Head of Biology Domain Architecture at GSK. "The SIMDAT Grid technologies developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), NEC, Inpharmatica (Galapagos), InforSense and Fraunhofer Institute for Algorithms and Scientific Computing SCAI provide a new business model in the life science sector, which can be considered as a success of the project as a whole."
Usually, establishing new relationships by creating a new virtual organisation (VO) may take up to several months. But the "Data Grid" paradigm can reduce this to weeks or even days. The VO in this case demonstrates how a pharmaceutical company could partner with an academic group and a vendor company to look at a specific disease and drug target. The duration of this relationship depends on the questions asked and the costs incurred by the interaction. Biotech, on the other hand, has the opportunity to get access to new markets and, hence, is in the position to increase its commercial offer by implementing a finer grained product portfolio.
Knowledge exchange within SIMDAT is not bound to local infrastructure but is tending away from organisational, process and technology limitations. Thus, pharmaceutical companies like GSK have now the possibility to scale their business relationship with both biotech companies like Inpharmatica (Galapagos) and academic partners. That is, they can restrict themselves to exactly those resources they are interested in and are not forced to subscribe to a complete and costly product. This can be realised by new, Grid-based middleware components, used to securely and transparently integrate distributed data repositories, in combination with distributed execution of process chains.
Through virtualisation pharmaceutical companies like GSK are now capable of scaling their business relationship with both industrial and academic partners and take advantage of its great savings potential. In addition globalisation is getting more and more crucial to keep up in an international context, especially considering the rate of growth of scientific and technical graduates in Asia is already outpacing the United States and Europe. Virtualisation has also the means to benefit from this wealth of knowledge along with developments in the global market.
Current industry applications can already take advantage of SIMDAT technologies. This was successfully demonstrated by a work flow-based test system implemented at GSK by InforSense, consisting of five different remote sites and including data services of two external companies. The development of this work flow is driven by the need to get high quality, state of the art analysis for pharmaceutical companies from wherever it is best sourced. Thus was shown that pharmaceutical R&D processes can be outsourced across multiple organisations, even if they are using different specifications. Thereby the central industrial requirement for a controlled and secure interaction has been fully addressed through internet security models provided by NEC.
As a powerful tool for knowledge exchange, SIMDAT technology broadens the scope of the drug discovery chain and is able to import the best of bread analysis from both academia and vendors at appropriate costs. It is an ideal showcase for potential providers who are interested in working with pharmaceutical partners in a more collaborative and beneficial manner rather than purely in a simple vendor consumer relationship.
SIMDAT has received research funding by the European Commission under the Information Society Technologies Programme (IST), contract number IST-2004-511438. Maximum Community contribution to the project is 11 million euro. The project started on 1 September 2004 and its duration is 48 months. There are 27 partners involved. The project is co-ordinated by the Fraunhofer Institute SCAI in Sankt Augustin, Germany.
GSK is one of the few pharmaceutical companies researching both medicines and vaccines for the World Health Organization's three priority diseases - HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and has developed some of the leading global medicines in these fields. Headquartered in the United Kingdom and with operations based in the United States, it is one of the industry leaders, with an estimated seven percent of the world's pharmaceutical market.
Fraunhofer Institute for Algorithms and Scientific Computing SCAI conducts research in the field of computer simulations for product and process development, designs and optimizes industrial applications, and offers calculations on high-performance computers. The Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, umbrella organisation of SCAI, undertakes applied research of direct use to private and public enterprise.
InforSense goes beyond traditional business intelligence to provide a completely integrated suite of agile, visual and predictive intelligence solutions, enabling organisations to gain business and scientific insights and optimize their business-critical decision-making processes. Leading pharmaceutical, biotechnology, consumer goods, health care, financial services, manufacturing and communications companies around the world rely on InforSense to quickly, easily deliver intelligence and identify trends in data. The company is privately held, with European headquarters in London, the United Kingdom and North American headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
NEC Laboratories Europe's IT Research Division (NLE-IT) in St. Augustin, Germany, focuses on the area of Parallel and Distributed Computing, including Grid Technologies and High Performance Computing (HPC) software technologies and applications. Current Grid activities address future enterprise service infrastructures and integrated security solutions. NLE-IT develops technology to enable Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA)-based business processes, such as enterprise applications, to be created, managed and deployed on demand. Strategic research areas for realizing the vision of a global service economy include: next-generation SOA for cross-enterprise collaboration and eCommerce, future SOA runtime systems, Service Level Agreement (SLA) lifecycle management, service quality assurance, virtualization, and semantic technologies.