There are over 7000 rare diseases and most of these do not have a treatment or a cure. The general public is barely aware that they exist unless a member of their family or a friend has the disease. We are already seeing pharmaceutical companies eyeing rare diseases as a potential money machine with some treatments costing >$300,000 per year/ per patient. We are increasingly seeing a shift to more companies, institutes and researchers openly sharing data on the internet. Alongside this there are increasing efforts by researchers to publish in open access journals and release data into open or free databases. Researchers working on these diseases are generally spread throughout the globe and in developing countries. Many of the rare diseases attract little funding and therefore less research, so how can we draw attention to them? How can we possibly connect all of this data and impact research?
We believe scientific mobile apps may have a role to play in collaboration and aggregating the available data for different diseases. This lead us to develop a free app called Open Drug Discovery Teams (ODDT) for the sharing of scientific data initially focused on neglected and rare disease drug discovery. We have created a user interface via the ODDT app, for iOS-based devices (iPhone, iPod and iPad) that is "Flipboard or magazine-like". The user initially selects from a list of topics, and from there can flip through recently posted content. The app was launched April 12 2012 on the iTunes AppStore, and is free for anyone to use, and provides content-consumption features as its primary purpose. We are capturing content on a server and make use of Twitter as the primary source (as a proof of concept), which is regularly polled and assimilated into the data collection. The service provides an API for accessing ODDT topics and content. As the project evolves, the server will be gradually augmented to recognize particular data sources and information streams, and provide value added functionality. Currently it is able to recognize chemical data such as molecular structures, reactions and datasheets. The project is open to participation from anyone and provides the ability for users to make annotations and assertions, thereby contributing to the collective value of the data to the engaged community.
Why we need your support
We would like funding to enable server hosting for the next three years (approximate cost $1000 per year) and the remainder ($2000) to develop additional features such as capturing Google search data for the diseases we track in the app. Future versions of the app will enable social networking features for organizing participants into teams, with various forms of communication and content management possible. We are also working on adding more sophisticated tools to enable drug discovery from the app, e.g. remote docking and chemistry searches.
Dr. Sean Ekins and Dr. Alex M. Clark have a deep understanding of the pharmaceutical industry and a developing knowledge of rare and neglected diseases. Sean has a Ph.D. in clinical pharmacology, and has worked for major pharmaceutical companies and software companies. He consults for several pharmaceutical and consumer product companies on computational drug discovery research. Sean has authored or co-authored ~190 peer reviewed papers and book chapters and he has received 6 NIH STTR and SBIR grants as Principal Investigator.
Alex has a Ph.D. in chemistry and a quarter century of software engineering. He has spent the last 10 years designing and building software to address the needs of drug discovery scientists, and has operated his own company, Molecular Materials Informatics, for the last 2 years. He currently focuses on developing next generation chemical information software interfaces for mobile devices and web applications, and building new drug discovery algorithms for use in a cloud-hosted environment.
Alex and Sean have worked together on several free scientific mobile app projects, including Green Solvents and the Open Drug Discovery Teams project.