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Saving lives through simulation

Optibrium, a developer of software for small molecule drug discovery and optimisation, has announced that it will make its StarDrop drug discovery software available to an international consortium of academic and non-profit organisations.

Under the agreement, licensed access to StarDrop software will be provided to support, and potentially accelerate, drug discovery projects as part of a global health programme focused on developing new treatments for neglected diseases.

The consortium partners are involved in projects to facilitate the development of therapies for the treatment of so called neglected diseases such as leishmaniasis, sleeping sickness, Chagas disease, malaria, tuberculosis and paediatric HIV. StarDrop’s optimisation and compound selection capabilities will be used to help researchers focus their efforts on researching candidate drugs with the best chance of success.

Dr Matthew Segall, Optibrium’s CEO, commented: ‘We are very proud to support such an important effort to address some of the world’s biggest health issues. Drug development is enormously time consuming, expensive and high risk, due to the challenge of finding high quality candidate drugs with the right balance of efficacy and safety. By adopting StarDrop, consortium partners will have global access to a wide range of tools allowing their researchers to quickly target compounds with the highest chance of success and avoid missed opportunities.’

The World Health organisation (WHO) defines neglected tropical diseases, such as leishmaniasis, as ‘a diverse group of communicable diseases that prevail in tropical and subtropical conditions in 149 countries and affect more than one billion people, costing developing economies billions of dollars every year.’ The WHO classifies these diseases as primarily affecting populations living in poverty, without adequate sanitation and in close contact with infectious vectors and domestic animals and livestock. Due to these reasons, neglected diseases generally do not have sufficient funding and research efforts focused on developing treatments and possible cures.

In a paper published in 2013, in The Lancet Global Health Journal by Pedrique et al, entitled: ‘The drug and vaccine landscape for neglected diseases (2000-2011): a systematic assessment’ states: ‘Neglected diseases continue to cause significant morbidity and mortality in the developing world. Of 850 new therapeutic products approved between 2000 and 2011, only 4 per cent were indicated for neglected diseases, even though these diseases account for 11 per cent of the global disease burden.

It is hoped that access to the StarDrop software will help to accelerate the development of new drugs as researchers can spend less time identifying potential compounds and more time developing treatments for these poorly understood diseases.

The software will be made available to all partners in the consortium which includes software providers, research institutes, and Universities in the US and the UK. Partner organisations included in the agreement are Anacor, Broad Institute, Epichem, Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI), Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), Sandexis, TB Alliance, UNICAMP, University of California San Diego, University of Cape Town, University of Dundee and University of Liverpool.

Another recent, although slightly different approach to using simulation to help developing countries can be found in Scientific Computing World’s coverage on the use of HPC to combat the cassava whitefly. This article highlights the work of researchers to combat famine in developing countries, by developing a more comprehensive understanding of pests which destroy crops and spread infectious viruses.

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