Hopes from virtual world

Computer design technology opens new possibilities for young scientists to conduct pragmatic research

Belarus is not a rich country. Accordingly, it should focus not on the creation of new domestic medicines, which cost a great deal to develop, but on generic drugs. The latter are similar to well-known branded medicines, where patents have expired.

Until recently, this view was common, taking into consideration that the development of a modern drug by leading manufacturers might be too expensive. However, the latest computer design technology is allowing the pharmaceutical branch to make medicines not only several times quicker but significantly cheaper, with costs cut 2-3 times. Belarus can now afford to use its well-developed information technologies to design cutting edge medicines.

Scientists from the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Biophysics and Cell Engineering are hopeful that their successful mastery of computing methods will help them create a range of new medicines. Scientist Alexander Davidovsky recently reported to the Innovative Forum, held in Minsk, explaining that a new generation anti-tumour drug has been developed with the help of computer software. This is a first for Belarus, although the ‘recipe’ is yet to be chemically synthesised and gain a medical patent. Pre-clinical and clinical tests lie ahead but scientists are confident of success. “Our methods use powerful mathematical optimisation, avoiding tube testing. In turn, we can calculate the structure of a protein-receptor responsible for a particular disease,” Mr. Davidovsky stressed. “This means we can predict or select (from millions of chemical combinations) those which best ‘match’ this protein-receptor. On being located in a certain place, these combinations can actively block a protein, allowing recovery.”

Scientists are now searching for additional ways to practically realise their idea. “We’ve decided to co-operate with the Russians, who are now actively developing computer software for creating medicines. At a profit, they are fulfilling orders for the computer design of drugs, placed by famous global manufacturers,” notes Valery Veresov, the head of Cell Structural Biophysics (a thematic scientific group). The doctor of biological sciences tells us, “Jointly with the Centre for Theoretical Problems of Physico-Chemical Pharmacology at the Russian Academy of Sciences, we’ve applied to the Interstate Target Programme for CIS States’ Innovative Co-operation for 2011-2020, hoping to gain financing. Joint research using our SKIF supercomputer could result in the production of new drugs.”

This branch is a priority worldwide. Not long ago, the USA hosted an international congress gathering producers and developers of medicines, where it was noted that computer designed drugs are now responsible for six percent of the market. Western specialists say that, by 2020, computer designed medicines will comprise 30 percent of the total, rising to 90 percent by 2050.

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