Meeting under the Blue Obelisk

Here’s something that makes me feel pleased:
Jean-Claude Bradley posts:

NCI – UsefulChem Link


Earlier this week, I was contacted by Daniel Zaharevitz, Chief of the Information Technology Branch of the Developmental Therapeutics Program at the National Cancer Institute. He is also involved with the NIH Roadmap Molecular Libraries Initiative. We had a very interesting talk about Open Science and what kind of further impact it could have in drug development. Lets just say that we are on the same page on this issue and I’m really impressed with what Dan is trying to achieve.
The first thing we are going to do is start shipping the compounds we make for an automatic screening of 60 cell lines for tumor inhibitory activity. No, these compounds were not designed for this purpose but the screening service Dan offers is free and we might just learn something.
Also, if someone has a model of tumor suppression and would like to make a suggestion (hint, hint), I would be happy to re-prioritize the order in which we make our molecules. The UsefulChem project is designed to be flexible that way.
The Ugi reaction we are using is very simple and amenable to combinatorial approaches from commercially available compounds. Many of these compounds have probably been made and tested by pharmaceutical companies but the results are sitting behind a firewall.
Dan will also be visiting me in Philly next week.
Thanks to Peter Murray-Rust for catalyzing this connection!
For new readers, Jean-Claude is promoting Open Science where the experiments are reported as they are done. This means the whole world can see them. Dan discovered me through the Open Source community lists – before we had formulated the Blue Obelisk but fully in the spirit of it. Dan has an exceiting vision of how if we pool our information on how chemical compounds interact with biological targets, publish it openly, we could make a huge amount of progress. There are many others in the NIH who share this vision and they have created the Molecular Libraries Roadmap project and they are funding this. The results of this will all be Open – in Pubchem.  
Open data of this sort can provide huge amounts of new science.


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2 Responses to Meeting under the Blue Obelisk

  1. DanZ says:

    I think Peter would agree with me when I say that the infrastructure development that we have beat on for more years than I would care to admit is finally getting to the point were some real interesting things can be developed. The usual way of proceeding would be to work hard with some limited number of collaborators, get some interesting results, and then write a paper that makes it sound like everything was clean and rational and fit together so nicely. The way Jean-Claude is working provides a very interesting opportunity to see the process as it really is and even get useful help along the way. It is going to be very interesting to see how much of a community develops. As I mentioned in a comment on Jean-Claude’s site, it is very important to the programs I work for to really be useful to bench scientists. The best way to do that would be to actually work in the lab, seeing the day to day problems and helping to work at the solutions. Physically being in a number of labs is obviously a problem, but it might be very possible to virtually join a number of labs. I should probably start my own blog to go into detail on some of the things I would like to do, but suffice it to say that it is really exciting to be in a position to build communities in around not just ideas, but concrete steps to attack interesting and important problems.

  2. Dan,
    I’m glad that you now have an account on the UsefulChem wiki – feel free to experiment and add or modify any pages. There is always the “revert to prior version” safety net 🙂
    I look forward to getting the screening data for the first few compounds.

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