AstraZeneca has collaborated with Microsoft to develop new technology for drug intervention for a personalised treatment of cancer.

As part of the collaboration, the companies will design a new computer modelling system that will signal pathways in cancer cells to predict the best place for the application of new drugs.

AstraZeneca bioinformatics, oncology, innovative medicines and early development (IMED) principal scientist and global strategy lead Jonathan Dry believes that the new system will decrease the wet lab work and can pave the way for an accelerated drug development.

Dry said: “We model the way many different proteins interact and we simulate experiments that we previously did in the lab.

"By focusing our oncology research on the targets that matter most, we have the potential to improve our drug development success rate."

"We test the likely effects of our drugs at different places on the pathway and identify the most promising places to intervene.

“We are moving to a whole new level of understanding of the intricacies of drug targeting. By focusing our oncology research on the targets that matter most, we have the potential to improve our drug development success rate.”

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Microsoft senior researcher and University of Cambridge systems biology associate professor Jasmine Fisher has first conceived the idea of the cloud-based simulation tool, called BioModel Analyser (BMA).

Under the IMED-Microsoft collaboration focused on acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), the IMED scientists contributed genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic data derived from AML cell lines in the lab, while Microsoft computer scientists developed advanced algorithms to model all possible variations in a key signalling pathway and their potential results.

The information was then used to simulate experiments in order to determine ways to use drug combination to resist drug resistance, which will result in the targeting of cell signalling in AML, as well as its likely variation in different cell lines.

The in-silico data derived from the computer model was compared with the in-vitro tests conducted in the laboratory.

Dry added: “Even I was surprised by the accuracy of the simulation.

“It told us what drug combination would make a cell sensitive to treatment and the protein changes that led to that cell becoming sensitive.”

He stated that the collaboration will proceed with specific oncology projects, with breast cancer being prioritised for the simulated experiment.