Compugen leads kinase pathway group

TEL AVIV, Israel—Compugen Ltd. announced it is leading a consortium to simulate the MAP-kinase pathway, a signaling pathway related to cancer

Jeffrey Bouley
TEL AVIV, Israel—Compugen Ltd. announced it is leading a consortium for the development of a platform to simulate the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAP-kinase) pathway, a signaling pathway related to cancer which is already targeted by a number of cancer therapies and diagnostic tests. This group, known as the Simulation Modeling of the MAP-kinase Pathway (SIMAP) consortium, is being funded by the European Commission, which has allocated €3.1 million for the project over a three-year time frame.
The other consortium members are Aureus Pharma of France, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas of Spain, the Institut de Recerca Hospital Universitari Vall de Hebron in Spain, Istituto Nazionale Tumori of Milan-Italy, the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Germany, the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom, the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, and Arttic Israel, a consultancy and management company.
Leading the consortium should be a boost to Compugen's goal of create cutting-edge platforms and technologies for predictive biology and other discovery applications, notes Dr. Yossi Cohen, Compugen's vice president of research and discovery, a new business unit for the company. This business unit intends to provide new discoveries for evaluation by the therapeutic and diagnostic businesses and to be responsible for the creation of additional discovery engines, platforms and technologies.
And that is where the consortium could help give Compugen a boost. As Zipi Fligelman Shaqed, team leader for numerical modeling of biosystems at Compugen notes, the company is leading a number of distinguished organizations that can only help to advance Compugen's own research.
"We believe that such multiscale modeling has never been done before and is a significant step forward," adds Cohen. "Combining mathematical modeling of biochemical behavior with new data mining techniques and clinical data could create a multidisciplinary platform prototype. This platform can be suitable for modeling of other disease related pathways leading to the rational development of drugs for many conditions."
The MAP-kinase pathway is considered important because it plays a key role in relaying signals from the plasma membrane into the nucleus. A thorough understanding of this pathway is deemed necessary for developing truly effective anti-cancer therapies, Cohen notes.
According to reports from Compugen, the SIMAP consortium intends to develop a comprehensive simulation model of the pathway that incorporates data from the literature and from experimental and clinical work. The model is expected to create qualitative predictions and then experimental verification and is expected to integrate and analyze data from various types of resources, including single molecule information, pathway modeling, clinical data and patients' responses.
The concepts and methods to be developed could help researchers better design new therapeutic drugs, decrease the failure rate  related to new drugs and make it possible to select patients for treatment on the basis of individual parameters, Cohen notes. Also, predictions regarding the impact of drug combinations that could come out of SIMAP modeling technologies might "allow dramatic improvement in the design of preclinical and clinical trials, enhance patient response and limit adverse effects of drugs."
Even without the contributions of the SIMAP work to Compugen's knowledge base, the company was already primed for success, notes Martin Gerstel, chairman of Compugen. "We expect that during the next two years, Compugen and its licensees and partners will be validating and developing products based on the first wave of discoveries from the company's initial discovery engines," he noted in a prepared statement in late 2005. "Although we expect that during the next two years our primary focus in diagnostics will be the development of products based on our current inventory of discoveries, we also intend to continue our discovery activities through the use of our initial discovery engines—targeted primarily at cancer and cardiovascular diseases—and to begin to extend our efforts to other disease areas."

Jeffrey Bouley

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