How improved assay analysis benefits early drug discovery

DDW Editor Reece Armstrong speaks to Abraham Wang, Head of Marketing at Collaborative Drug Discovery (CDD) about annotated assays and the advantages they bring to research teams.

RA: What advantages can better analysis into assays bring to drug developers?

AW: Better analysis into assays offers a multitude of advantages, including an enhanced understanding of compound activity and early identification of promising candidates. By effectively running bioassays and analysing results, drug developers can efficiently optimise lead compounds, predict in vivo efficacy, and gain insights into the mechanism of action. Additionally, assay analysis aids in understanding structure-activity relationships, optimising dose-response relationships, and supporting regulatory compliance and intellectual property claims. Overall, these benefits lead to cost and time savings, improved efficiency, and increased success rates in drug discovery and development endeavours.

RA: What are some of the challenges biologists face when performing experimental assays?

AW: There is a lot of wasted time and effort when assays are performed without being properly annotated, which is unfortunate. Redundant work is often necessary because assay data are poorly managed and hard to search. Reproducibility suffers because assay protocols are not sufficiently documented, so that different team members run them with slight variation. When it’s time to publish results or file for patents, teams are often faced with challenges in reporting key details because data are not organised in a way that facilitates querying. All of these can delay research progress and jeopardise intellectual property claims.

RA: Does assay annotation remove some of the burden scientists face when performing/ analysing assays?

AW: By using standardised and well-structured annotation protocols, scientists can efficiently document and organise their experimental data, simplifying data entry and management, which in turn will improve data integrity, accuracy, and reproducibility. This streamlined approach saves time, reduces errors, and allows scientists to focus more on the scientific aspects of their work rather than tedious administrative tasks. Additionally, assay annotation facilitates collaboration among team members, improves data accessibility, and enables comprehensive data analysis.

RA: Why is having standardised assay descriptors that adhere to FAIR principles important for research teams?

AW: Having standardised assay descriptors that adhere to FAIR (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable) principles is crucial for research teams because it ensures that assay data is consistently structured, well-documented, and easily accessible. By adhering to standardised descriptors, research teams can efficiently find and share data, promoting collaboration and knowledge exchange. Interoperability allows seamless integration with other systems and tools, streamlining data exchange and analysis. The adherence to FAIR principles enhances data reproducibility, accuracy, and comparability, enabling researchers to build on existing knowledge and avoid redundant work.

RA: What are the current limitations of the standard practice for describing bioassay protocols?

AW: Major limitations of the current standard practice include the lack of widely accepted ontologies and vocabularies, leading to inconsistent and non-comparable descriptions; limited data accessibility, hindering collaboration and knowledge-sharing; insufficient metadata, making it challenging to evaluate data reliability and reproducibility; poor reusability, resulting in redundant efforts and missed opportunities; and difficulty in automating processes (including AI applications) due to the absence of structured information.

RA: How important is it to have common vocabulary for assays when sharing with collaborators?

AW: A standardised and shared vocabulary ensures clear and consistent communication among team members, avoiding misunderstandings and potential errors. It facilitates efficient data exchange, analysis, and integration across different research groups and platforms, enabling seamless collaboration.

With a common vocabulary, collaborators can quickly understand and interpret assay details, experimental conditions, and results, leading to improved reproducibility and comparability of findings. This is particularly important in the context of publication, regulatory filing, and M&A activities.

RA: Can annotated data/assays help ensure data isn’t lost over time?

AW: By providing comprehensive documentation of experimental details, protocols, and results, annotations preserve essential contextual information that might otherwise be forgotten or overlooked.

These annotations act as a roadmap for future researchers, enabling them to understand and replicate experiments accurately. Additionally, standardised metadata and vocabulary enhance data findability and accessibility, making it easier for scientists to retrieve and utilise valuable information even as research projects evolve or personnel change. Furthermore, annotations promote data integration, making it possible to combine and analyse diverse datasets over extended periods, safeguarding the long-term value and impact of scientific research.

RA: Can you tell us about CDD Vault’s latest update and why the organisation decided it needed to add these additional capabilities?

AW: CDD has been a player in the informatics space for close to 20 years, and we dedicated considerable resources to developing our assay annotation technology. In talking to experts in both academia and the industry, we realised that the lack of standard practices is leading to all the problems described above, and there is really no other solutions on the market that can address it the way we can. That is why we decided to commercialise this unique and proprietary technology, making it part of the already widely adopted CDD Vault platform. The advantage of this approach is that users can easily integrate assay annotation into their normal workflow, even sharing the annotation information with other applications using CDD Vault’s API.

DDW Volume 25 – Issue 1, Winter 2023/2024

Abraham WangBiography

Abraham Wang is the Head of Marketing at Collaborative Drug Discovery. Wang has experience leading efficient teams in technology companies to drive brand awareness and generate demand.


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