Tackling type 1 diabetes in silico

Jeffrey Bouley
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ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Following quickly on their success with the PhysioLab model of Type I diabetes, the American Diabetes Association and Entelos announced a funding opportunity for basic research into the metabolic disorder through their joint initiative Diabetes Research Center, including access to the in silico and biosimulation tools developed in PhysioLab. The DRC is soliciting letters of intent for projects to be conducted in the latter half of 2007.
FOSTER CITY, Calif.—The American Diabetes Association (ADA) and Entelos are working together to establish an in silico research facility to support basic research in type 1 diabetes—a plan announced during the ADA's 66th Scientific Sessions in June. The facility, which will initially be located at Entelos' Foster City, Calif., headquarters, is expected to provide research­ers with "an unparalleled ability to investigate the onset, progres­sion, and treatment of diabetes," the organizations say.
"With the availability of this technology, academic research­ers will, for the first time, be able to combine the benefits of in silico research with their own laboratory investigations" says Dr. Mikhail Gishizky, CSO for Entelos, a company that applies engineering principles and math­ematical modeling approaches to simulate human biology.
The diabetes research capa­bilities at the facility will be made available through the ADA's peer-review grant pro­cess. The first research projects will use Entelos' Type 1 Diabetes PhysioLab platform, a computer simulation model of the non-obese diabetic (NOD) mouse, the primary animal model used to study type 1 diabetes. The Type 1 Diabetes PhysioLab platform was developed over a two-year partnership between Entelos and the ADA.
"This initiative is an exten­sion of the successful comple­tion of Entelos' Type 1 Diabetes PhysioLab platform, so it makes sense to start this core facility with projects in Type 1 diabetes," says Dr. Richard Kahn, chief scientific and medical officer for the ADA. "This novel approach, using biosimulation to comple­ment basic research, has already uncovered numerous insights into the mechanisms and triggers of this disease. These as well as future insights will hopefully accelerate our understanding of human dia­betes and lead to successful ways to treat and prevent it."
Specifically, the program holds the promise to help research­ers understand how interactions between multiple immune com­ponents affect glucose control and the onset of diabetes in the NOD mouse, adds Dr. Jeffrey Bluestone, director of the University of California, San Francisco Diabetes Center and a member of the ADA's Scientific Advisory Board.
"Research in this platform will enable investigation of critical pathways contributing to and reg­ulating autoimmunity and beta cell destruction, thereby potentially providing insights into approaches to evaluate and halt or reverse dis­ease progression," Bluestone says.
According to Gishizky, the new research center also marks a major step in the ADA's goal to delve more strongly into research on thera­pies for type 1 diabetes—building on its already strong track record with such work on type 2 diabetes over the years. Both organizations worked together on building an in-silico platform for type 2 diabetes before, so it made sense for them to work on this platform, he says.
Entelos will coach academic and medical researchers on using the platform, Gishizky explains. The ADA, for its part, will not only handle peer reviews of potential projects but also will likely pro­vide some coverage for the costs of using the platform. But the cost structure—and what researchers will have to pick up in terms of the tab—is still being worked out.
"The idea here is to make it avail­able and accessible, understanding that the costs associated with this type of work cannot be fully borne by researchers," Gishizky says.

Jeffrey Bouley

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