News Feature | February 26, 2014

Computers Quicken Pace Of Drug Development And Lower Costs

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By Marcus Johnson

Kun-Yi Hsin is a researcher working with the Open Biology Unit in order to solve problems related to the high cost of developing pharmaceutical drugs. Hsin is especially interested in the development of drugs that treat rare diseases. Rare diseases aren’t often invested in, because it doesn’t make sense from an economic standpoint. But Hsin aims to bring down the costs of drug development, along with speeding up the process. He hopes that his studies will eventually make it easier for drug companies to work on drugs that treat rare diseases and disorders.

Hsin’s research revolves around using computer systems in order to help drug development. His method is called “systems docking simulation.” By using the systems docking simulation, Hsin can quickly and efficiently find out if a small molecule will bind to a protein or not. His process screens one small molecule against several proteins, which allows researchers to predict certain traits, such as a drug’s toxicity, before a study’s experimental stage. Hsin’s research has already proved that his method is more efficient in predicting on and off targets than traditional drug development methods.

While Hsin’s research methods have potential, he has stated that they are not yet ready for widespread use. “We focused on improving prediction results on a small scale before applying the methods to a bigger system,” Hsin said. Hsin’s research team will continue their research on computer systems at the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Tokyo. He will also be incorporating the OIST Performance Computing System into his research.