Today, the Boston Globe covered a new initiative out of the Harvard medical community that brings together disparate fields like computer science, physics, and biology to “build a quantitative understanding of how drugs work in the body and how to better design therapies.” They’re calling this new effort systems pharmacology.
Over the last two decades, the human genome project has yielded fantastic new discoveries in the world of fundamental biology, but translating these breakthroughs into new drugs has been much more difficult. By encouraging experts to look holistically at the systems interacting within the human body, systems pharmacology has the potential to advance new cures much quicker than we thought was possible. The project’s leader, Mark Kirschner, described it this way:
If you’re trying to halt traffic in a city, you could say you have this one major street and you could block the traffic on this major street. Maybe the traffic might not move as fast, but it would find a way. It might be you’d be better off picking three or five major thoroughfares and blocking them each 80 percent. But for you to make that prediction, you really first need a map.
NIH director, Dr. Francis Collins, had this to say about the new initiative:
Clearly, if we’re going to do translation based upon drugs we need to understand everything we can about how they interact with cells.
You can read the full article here.