Ingenuity “Hackathon” Tackles Prospect of New Uses for Old Drugs

Doug Bassett, Ph.D., is thrilled to see an Ingenuity Hackathon team tackle the challenge and opportunity of drug repositioning by leveraging the rich biological connections in the Ingenuity Knowledge Base.

Doug Bassett, PhDBy Doug Bassett, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Officer and Chief Technology Officer, Ingenuity Systems

Whenever you make a move from one great institution to another there are always those cultural elements that just strike you—make you say to yourself, “This is fantastic! Why didn’t I think of that?” After making the move to Ingenuity from Merck a few months ago, Ingenuity’s rich cultural tradition of the “Hackathon” blew me away.

Twice a year, Ingenuity’s discovery scientists, software engineers, product managers, analysts—everyone is encouraged to take part—take a full week to free their minds and work on a project they are fundamentally passionate about, one that they feel has promise to enhance the value we deliver to our customers. At their disposal they have the Ingenuity Knowledge Base containing millions of high-quality computable biomedical Findings, extracted by scientific experts from the literature and rooted in a unified ontology; cutting edge software and hardware systems; and an advanced knowledge platform including an exceptional natural language processing pipeline. Projects in the past have included automated software “bots” that scour the Ingenuity Knowledge Base to ensure quality, technologies to identify experts in a field, target & network visualization tools, and discovery analytics that have evolved IPA, and even an easy-to-use search tool that gave rise to Ingenuity Answers – our newest product.

In a recent Ingenuity Hackathon, I was thrilled to see a team tackle the challenge and opportunity of drug repositioning. Repositioning a drug affords a unique opportunity not only to address an unmet medical need, but also to significantly reduce therapeutic development costs by leveraging molecules that have already undergone significant preclinical and clinical testing to establish their safety. Ingenuity’s IPA and Answers products have been leveraged to identify and prioritize exciting new drug targets, to proactively identify potential drug safety issues, and to discover and translate predictive biomarkers. Natural extensions of Ingenuity logic and analytics that were developed originally for target identification were leveraged to suggest potential alternative associations between existing FDA/EMEA-approved therapeutics and prospective alternative indications by “crawling” the biological networks of connections between diseases, compounds, and genes in the Ingenuity Knowledge Base.

From a human health perspective, the potential rewards in this area are significant, and the discipline is particularly well-suited to the application of Ingenuity technologies. As a biomedical research community, we now have an unparalleled bounty of riches in publicly accessible information that can be synthesized to inform discovery and clinical hypotheses in silico. In an environment of rapidly rising healthcare costs, it is incumbent upon all of us to drive increasingly intelligent solutions that leverage these knowledge assets in synergy to pull costs out of the system—empowering us to make better decisions, faster.

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