Ariadne’s thread of connections

Bioinformatics company to collaborate in multimillion-dollar EU-based neuromuscular disease consortium to find biomarkers

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ROCKVILLE, Md.—Ariadne recently announced a collaboration with the BIO-NMD consortium, a three-year, $9.6 million EU-funded research project based in Newcastle, England that is concentrating on the search for non-invasive biomarkers in people with Duchenne and Becker muscular dystrophies and Collagen VI myopathies.

Led by Alessandra Ferlini, a professor at the University of Ferrara in Italy, the BIO-NMD consortium, along with leading European academic and industry partners, is working to identify non-invasive biomarkers for monitoring neuromuscular diseases.

Utilizing a wide variety of 'omics sciences—particularly genomics, transcriptomics and proteomics—along with bioinformatics, the consortium hopes to bring qualified biomarkers for ongoing clinical trials and future trials. Ariadne's focus will be on providing bioinformatics tools for identifying functional pathways, potential targets and data outflow integration.

Generally, the Ariadne team will use its software, Pathway Studio, as a core to integrate the data and information flow, in addition to using its expertise in information extraction to develop a literature-derived neuromuscular disease (NMD) biological knowledge base of related processes and diseases.

More specifically, Ariadne will build mechanistic models and pathways for NMD and interpret 'omics data generated by the consortium and partners in the context of NMD knowledge base and networks.

"We have always worked to establish strong collaborations with our clients," says Gabriella Armin, director of marketing for Ariadne. "Given the importance of this project, we are proud to not only provide the technology to enable this type of innovative discovery research, but also to contribute scientifically as team members. Our technological expertise in knowledge enrichment continues to provide crucial bioinformatics tools for visualizing the complexity found in biology."

"The participation of Ariadne as partners together with Inserm [Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale] is crucial for the project," adds Ferlini, who is BIO-NMD's coordinator and chair of the steering committee. "Developing bioinformatic tools for 'omics studies analysis is essential and guarantees success to the project. In addition, it reinforces collaboration between academics and industries, again a key point for successful research to be translated into clinics."

This is the right time to launch into this kind of work and the right place for Ariadne to be research-wise because, as Armin says, Ariadne has worked closely with customers, including top pharma and biotech, as well as premier academic research institutions around the world, for almost a decade, and the company brings unique expertise in data extraction and text-mining, which has allowed it to generate specific knowledge environments for biomarker discovery.

"MedScan technology, a unique technology in this space, allows any research group or company to compile highly specific and customized databases of biological pathways or networks and gene and protein events or specific diseases," Armin says. "Ariadne has adapted its Pathway Studio software to contribute significantly to the discovery and validation of biomarkers in neuromuscular diseases."

Armin explains that the members of the consortium, which is composed of seven leading European academic partners—offering expertise either experimentally or in patient sample collection to go with Ariadne's bioinformatics skills—are highly regarded and qualified in their particular fields.

"In fact, all the academic partners are linked to the Network of Excellence for TREAT-NMD, an initiative in the neuromuscular field that is creating the infrastructure to ensure that the most promising new therapies reach patients as quickly as possible," Armin notes. "Several are also involved with the NMD-CHIP project whose aim is to design, develop and validate new sensitive high-throughput DNA microarrays, or 'gene chips,' to diagnose patients affected by neuromuscular disorders."

Not only will the collaboration allow Ariande to take advantage of these consortiums' talents, but also to better integrate, disseminate and implement data and results generated from BIO-NMD projects.

Ariadne officials first met with Ferlini at a Biomarker Summit conference in London of April 2008, Armin says and they immediately recognized that there was a common interest and potential to collaborate on NMDs.

"As we discussed the scientific and data challenges associated with the project, it was agreed that Ariadne could help in developing innovative approaches to discover biomarkers for NMDs," Armin recalls. "After validation of our technology, it became apparent that not only could we help the BIO-NMD consortium analyze the massive amounts of 'omics data the project would produce, but help the TREAT-NMD network develop analytical approaches by building new disease pathway models."

Armin says that Ariadne's ongoing relationships with customers and clients, including BIO-NMD, allow the company to continually create more relevant, scientifically accurate software, knowledge databases and applications.

"Ongoing product development projects are always collaborative, with each side bringing their expertise and specific domain knowledge to the table. With BIO-NMD, we can add to the vast amount of information currently offered by Ariadne, specifically in the area of neuromuscular disorders," Armin says. "In today's world of unanswered scientific problems, there is a real requirement for a variety of skill-sets, knowledge and technologies. Our hope that is through the pursuit of new collaborations and partnerships we can create ongoing relationships and apply that knowledge by providing products and services in support of innovative research and discovery programs."

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