1. Drug Discovery: Context

(This video can be downloaded from Media Hopper Create.)

Parkure Ltd is an award winning company with the sole mission of finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease, and seeks to improve the life of sufferers by exploiting new drugs that lead to the improvement of symptoms. The company’s vision is to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease (PD) by discovering disease modifying drugs against novel or known targets. Read more  http://parkure.co.uk/

Parkure makes use of online data resources, open source software and open peer reviewed scholarly works and publications.

How will they do this?

There are two methods of drug discovery used at Parkure. These are:

In Vivo Drug DiscoveryStudies that are in vivo (Latin for “within the living”) are those in which the effects of various biological entities are tested on whole, living organisms or cells, as opposed to a tissue extract or dead organism.

Phenotypical Drug Discovery – this relates to the observable characteristics of an individual (or organism) resulting from the interaction of its genetic composition with the environment during testing.

Lysimachos developed what is called a ‘screening assay’ as a PhD student. In this case he uses specially designed drug testing procedures against a particular breed of fruit fly. This is a fast, efficient, and scalable procedure that allows larger numbers of chemicals to be tested, so increasing the chances of success. It was this screen assay that became the stand-alone drug discovery company that he now runs.

What types of resources does a company like Parkure use?

Specialist research databases for example those that store data about biological entities such as gene sequences, structures of proteins and drug and target interactions. Most databases of this kind are free and open to use.

Research literature – the published body of scientific knowledge that is around the disease, and around targets relating to Parkinsons. This is often published in peer-reviewed journals, but can sometimes be found in free and open scholarly works and publications.

Free and Open Source Software This includes software used to search through, collect and analyse information in a database, match protein or gene sequences, and so on.

Key Resources

PubMed – PubMed is a free search engine, range of tools and resources to support the access and use of the MEDLINE database of references and abstracts on life sciences and biomedical topics. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ 

MedLine – is the U.S. National Library of Medicine® database of references and abstracts on life sciences and contains over 24 million references to journal articles on biomedical topics and offers a range of indexing services. https://www.medline.com/

Indexing services – This is a method for tracking citations in research, so that the most important information can be searched efficiently by researchers. PubMed comprises more than 20 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE® life sciences journals, and online books, with and 3,000-5,000 references added daily. Read more http://www.cygnusc.com/scientific-indexing-services-medline

Virtual Fly Brain – collaboration between different universities where everyone contributes anatomical knowledge to a central resource. The information is organised into a 3 dimensional fly brain model that can be accessed and interrogated by the community. https://www.virtualflybrain.org/

Are open resources important for Parkure?

Using open research resources is an ongoing practice for a company like Parkure, as it is in most biosciences. It is used regularly in many of the projects they work on in the company. However, the most important consideration is fit for purpose. So, peer reviewed and paid for research is also used when the license does not conflict with their aims and objectives.  

Give me an example of the use of open resources at Parkure.

Parkure recently used their drug discovery platform and identified two off-patent drugs that work on Parkinsons disease. They then had to explain why they think they were discovered by the platform and create a theory around their mechanism of action. Open access databases were used to search through the targets that the drugs work on, and a theory was developed from there.

What are the benefits of using open resources in a business like this?

By using this type of resource people often add to their business processes without realising it. By using and contributing to the resources the resources become stronger and become better for people who will use them down the line developing a stronger business ecosystem.