More Tools Needed

By Stacy Lawrence  |  Posted 2004-06-09 Print this article Print

Overall, biologics go all the way through the pipeline almost one-quarter of the time, a comparatively high success rate. Safety and toxicity concerns eliminate about 60 percent of drug candidates, but the remaining 40 percent fall prey to poor efficacy. Genomics research tools alone are ineffective in sorting which targets are useful to pursue, Kola said.
Click here to read about IBM and Affymetrix teaming up to supply clinical genomics capabilities to medical researchers and drug makers.
Understanding the disease through an examination of the disease pathway and phenotypical expression is crucial to choosing which targets are involved in the establishment of disease. Also helping to refine the mountains of targets produced are the method of hypothesis testing and the examination of extreme and opposite cases. Nicholas Dracopoli, vice president of clinical discovery technologies at Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. of New York, came to a similar conclusion. Even representatives at research tool companies Perlegen Sciences Inc. and San Diego, Calif.-based Sequenom Inc. stressed that putting genomics data into context greatly enhances its usefulness. Even though the understanding of the genes related to particular diseases is rapidly evolving, which genes are key and what role they play in creating an outcome is often still unknown. In complex diseases, dozens of genes may be implicated, making it difficult to determine which are the most important to target, the executives said. And some targets are unable to be treated with drugs. The costs of genomic analysis have dropped substantially in recent years. In 1989, it cost $200 million to discover the genetic basis of cystic fybrosis. Sequenom estimates that the cost of genomic analysis of a particular disease today is $500,000. The technology infrastructure underpinning bioterrorism monitoring and surveillance is inadequate, new reports say. Click here to read more. The next step in linking knowledge of the disease to discoveries of genomics may be to enable systematic understanding of disease pathways and phenotypes. In an article published last week in the journal Nature and again at the BIO conference, Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, called for the establishment of a biobank in the United States. This would create a publicly accessible, longitudinal database containing the biological material of at least half a million people. It would allow scientists to track diseased and nondiseased populations, as well as to access data on an individual preceding the onset of disease. The panelists seemed hopeful, yet cautious, that a biobank could be established. A similar effort in the United Kingdom is stymied so far. The biggest challenge to such an effort, Perlegen CEO Brad Margus said, is the need to design the study impeccably upfront, since the usability of any subsequent data would hinge entirely on the original design. Check out eWEEK.coms Database Center at for the latest database news, reviews and analysis.

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Stacy Lawrence is co-editor of's Health Care Center. Lawrence has covered IT and the life sciences for various publications, including Business 2.0, Red Herring, The Industry Standard and Nature Biotechnology. Before becoming a journalist, Lawrence attended New York University and continued on in the sociology doctoral program at UC Berkeley.

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