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Introducing Predictive Biomedicine


By John Russell

Sept. 5, 2008 | In September, Bio-IT World’s monthly Systems Biology newsletter (SBNL), which I edit, will become Predictive Biomedicine, a somewhat broadened newsletter with an increased, biweekly frequency, and a continued focus on the leading edge of computational biology. This is a natural transition as systems biology approaches become increasingly absorbed and put to use throughout the drug R&D process, and informatics tools in general grow more sophisticated.

We understand that “predictive” is a big word, and that biomedical research isn’t there yet, but ‘predictiveness’ is undeniably the direction in which the industry must move. Today, sophisticated informatics and computational tools increasingly enable researchers to understand experimental results and to make “reasonable predictions” about everything from mechanism of action, target selection, useful biomarkers, toxicity, and clinical trial outcomes.

To some extent, you can think of this as writing to the zone of our aspiration.

Predictive Biomedicine (PB) will cover the development and use of informatics and computational tools to manage, present, and interpret experimental data as well as those used in modeling and bio-simulation. Companies and thought-leaders; products and technologies; relevant research programs and their results will be covered. From data management challenges to systems biology initiatives, PB will report on industry’s efforts to reduce dependence on trial and error and adopt more data-driven predictive methods to drive drug discovery and development and even health care delivery.

If you are a subscriber to Systems Biology you will automatically receive Predictive Biomedicine and we hope you find its content useful and interesting; however you may also easily opt out when you receive the first (or any) issue. Write to me -- john_russell@bio-itworld.com—with your suggestions for coverage topics or leads to important stories. Predictive Biomedicine also welcomes guest commentaries, letters, and short papers so send your ideas for those as well. We’re especially interested in hearing of projects in which informatics or computational tools drove key decisions.

Systems History
During the past two and a half years, SBNL has covered many aspects of systems biology and it is perhaps worth singling out a few past articles that capture systems biology’s aspiration, challenge, and enthusiasm.

P4 Medicine: Lee Hood’s Hopeful Vision of the Future 

Exclusive Interview with David de Graaf, formerly of Pfizer

GNS: Building a ‘SNPs-to-Outcomes’ Engine

Systems Biology’s Awkward Adolescence 

Entelos’ First Year as a Public Company

Speaking of Entelos, this biosimulation specialist has launched an intriguing website—MyDigitalHealth.com—that suggests the company is testing the waters for a major push into the consumer world of personalized medicine and health.

This is a bold move. Entelos is best known for its portfolio of PhysioLab computational disease models used in drug R&D. A year ago, the company acquired Iconix and its database of gene expression signatures. Now, the company seems to be leveraging its technologies to create a “platform” that would be able to take a variety of inputs—various biomarkers, SNP and genotype data, lifestyle attributes—from individual patients and produce a personalized risk assessment and, presumably, lifestyle and medication guidance.

Regulatory issues aside, this is a fascinating move into an entirely different business, with enormous potential for scaling up revenues. Scaling up has been a persistent problem for most systems biology companies for a variety of reasons. Entelos has long been an innovator in seeking new markets in which to apply its technology. For example, it has built a skin sensitization PhysioLab as part of a partnership with Unilever targeting the cosmetics market.

“This is still a very early effort,” says Alex Bangs, Entelos CTO and co-founder. “We’re hoping with the site to stimulate discussion and get feedback. It’s also helps show our traditional partners in the pharmaceutical world that Entelos is about personalized medicine, even if we don’t use the term very much.”

Is this a brilliant move by Entelos or a dud?

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This article appeared in Bio-IT World Magazine.

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