Medical Delta AI for Computational Life Sciences
The fact that scientists are increasingly better able to access molecular cell and tissue data also brings with it a new challenge: how can scientists find the information they need for research among the vast amount of data available?
The Medical Delta AI for Computational Life Sciences programme uses AI techniques to unlock biomedical data, discover new drug candidates, detect unusual cell abnormalities or relationships, and find useful information for research. This opens new doors with regard to scientific research on the human body and in particular the effect and development of new drugs.
The term ‘Computational Life Sciences’ is a combination of the terms ‘computer science’ and ‘life science’. Using AI techniques, Computational Life Sciences helps scientists gain a better understanding of biological mechanisms, and make predictions about interactions between molecules and cells, and interactions with drugs. This enables them to search more specifically for the molecules and genes needed for certain biological studies. It also facilitates more focussed hypotheses and helps in predicting what drugs should consist of in order for them to work effectively. This opens new doors for processes such as drug development, which can be carried out in a faster, better and more target manner.
New space telescope
Medical Delta Professor and Scientific Leader Boudewijn Lelieveldt compares it to using a new space telescope. As an astronomer, when you can suddenly see much further than was ever thought possible, you have to think carefully about what you want to focus the telescope on, so that you don’t become overwhelmed by the infinite possibilities. Using AI techniques, Computational Life Sciences helps scientists search specifically for the molecules and genes that will be useful for certain biological research and drug development.’
The programme’s research projects are being conducted by leading scientists in the field of bioinformatics, drug development, AI and computer sciences, together with pharmaceutical companies and clinicians. In addition to the development and application of Computational Life Sciences and AI techniques in general, the programme focusses on two main lines of research: antibiotic resistance to tuberculosis, and targeted drugs for brain disorders.
Antibiotic resistance to tuberculosis
Tuberculosis is one of the most deadly infectious diseases in the world. Every year, the disease is contracted by ten million people, 1.5 million of whom die from it (source: RIVM). A major problem when it comes to combating this disease is antibiotic resistance. Medical Delta: the aim of the programme AI for Computational Life Sciences is to aid antibiotic resistance research through computer modelling and the use of algorithms to determine the effect of things like bacterial mutations. By gaining a better understanding of the mechanism of antibiotic resistance, the researchers hope to be able to search more specifically for factors that might interfere with resistance, and thus develop better candidate drugs.
Targeted drugs for brain disorders
When new drugs are being developed for brain disorders, it is difficult to translate data from laboratory animal research directly into information on how these drugs will affect humans. The control of cells by genes, for example, is different in mice and humans. Medical Delta: AI for Computational Life Sciences is looking for methods with which to correctly convert research data, for a faster and better drug development phase.
In this programme, scientists from Leiden University, Leiden UMC, Erasmus University and TU Delft, all from the fields of bioinformatics, drug development, AI and Computational Life Sciences, are working in collaboration with clinicians and pharmaceutical companies. Scientists from Erasmus MC are also joining the programme.