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Seminar "(Big)Data driven multidisciplinary drug discovery"

Thursday 11 February 2016

Big data for safer and more effective drugs


Dr. Gerard van Westen, PhD

  • Thursday, February 11th from 09.00 – 10.00
  • in the Sitterzaal (Huygens Building).  


Pharmaceutical science is changing, while perhaps not a paradigm shift, the influence and catalytic effect of data science on drug discovery cannot be denied. Yet, while it is tempting to go with the hype and herald ‘big data’ as a big game changer, history dictates this new development will likely be a synergistic addition to drug discovery rather than a revolutionary replacement of ‘old methods’. Nowadays, storage is cheap, computing power is cheap, and measurements are easy (all relative). Moreover, scientific data is becoming public and even open access. Better computing capabilities and more data make it easier to place drug research in the context of previous work. Moreover, the availability of data makes for a better preparation when embarking on new projects.  

It might therefore be better to refer to data driven research rather than using terms such as ‘big data’. Data driven is a novel way of doing research. While everybody is convinced that decisions in drug discovery are already made in a rational way, based on data, in practice gut feeling tends to play a major role. For instance when people work on their ‘pet’ protein or chemical reaction.  Moreover, results from one project are not typically shared with people working on another project.

It is this approach, cautious but curious and open minded to a new possibility, which defines my scientific attitude. I aim to explore potential synergy at the border of disciplines, while basing my decisions on a background in biopharmaceutical sciences. In the talk I will outline recent and current developments in chem- and bioinformatics. I will present some of my previous work and outline my plans for the coming years. More specifically, I will go into details for my current Veni project, explaining how we want to use data driven approaches to identify novel drug targets for cancer treatment. Lastly, I will show how data driven decisions perhaps can be of benefit to other LACDR projects. 


Gerard is currently working as a joined LACDR-LIACS fellow funded by the Faculty of Science to develop the area of computational drug discovery and development.  He recently obtained a VENI award and would like to use this opportunity to give an update of his program to date and outline his “big data” plans for future research 

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