Thanks to the growing sophistication of computers, the development of computer models to replace animals in drug development appears to be on the rise.
Dr. Shiva Ayyaduri, a systems biologist from the USA, has created an exciting new computer model called Cytosolve to replace animals in search for new drugs and drug combinations to treat specific diseases.1
To build the model, Dr. Ayyaduri and his team conducted a meticulous review of scientific literature for a particular disease and collected all of the existing data on known molecular pathways for that disease. They then generated mathematical equations and computational codes for each pathway and combined them into one working computer model to create a true imitation of the disease process. The highly sophisticated program is even capable of updating itself whenever new information becomes available and in any language. Dr. Ayyaduri said, “this shows that we can do the in silico (computer) testing, avoid a lot of the animal cell testing that takes time and money to do, and go right to human testing”.
The program has already been used to model pancreatic cancer upon which a new combination drug therapy was identified. The drug is currently being put forward to the FDA for review and if approved, it will proceed immediately to clinical trials without the need for animal tests.
As well as developing his own combination drug therapies, Dr. Ayyaduri plans to licence his software to pharmaceutical companies who can use it to screen combinations of generic drugs for a disease of choice.
Currently, nine out of ten experimental drugs fail in clinical studies because animal experiments cannot accurately predict how drugs will behave in people. Thanks to the emergence of increasingly realistic computer models, capable of modelling diseases in all of their complexity, we anticipate a change taking place in labs across the world. Dr. Aleksander Popel, professor of biomedical engineering at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine said, “computational systems biology, including multiscale modelling will be at the forefront of the translation of medicine, a process that has just begun”.2
3. CytoSolve: A scalable computational method for dynamic integration of multiple molecular pathway models. (2011). Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering, 4(1): 28-45.