Alex Philippidis Senior News Editor Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News

Oncology researchers wishing for a tool to help them find available models and services may have had their prayers answered.

Cancer researchers seeking models to use in their research and drug discovery efforts can find them in a recently launched database.

The World Oncology Model Bank™ (WOMB) lets users share information on the status and availability of their models. The database also allows researchers to not only search for and compare models, but also save lists, add to them, and adapt them for tracking and tracing as knowledge matures. All models are anonymized before being included in the database, with model data kept separate from the personal information of users.

“Essentially, the WOMB is like a cross between Google, a dating service, and Amazon for oncology researchers. We’ve just released version 1, and we have many more capabilities in the pipeline for releases through the next year,” Jon Waterman-Smith, WOMB’s founder, told GEN. “From day one we had almost 200 models and aim to increase our footprint of models by 200 every month.”

The website hosting the new database went live earlier this month. Its responsive web design interface responds to which platform and technology patients are using—desktops, laptops, or tablets. WAMIguide, which launched World Oncology Model Bank, said in a statement it plans to release future versions of the database for iPhone and Android based on user requests.

Waterman-Smith said WOMB aims to fill a need often expressed by oncology researchers for a simple tool to help find available models and services, especially as CROs, academic groups, and others have reshaped how cancer research is carried out. He cited greater use of patient-derived xenograft models, for example, in addressing the traditional lack of preclinical models of tumors.

“We want to fast-forward the pace of research by simplifying access to knowledge,” Waterman-Smith said.

World Oncology Model Bank charges $10 to scientists requesting information on a model, and $10 to scientists for each enquiry they accept from researchers about a model deposited there. Those fees are credited if the researchers don’t wish to share any further info.

For $300—or $150 for full-time academics—researchers can purchase annual “enquiry” subscriptions allowing them to make an unlimited number of requests to other researchers. They can also buy $200-a-year “model” subscriptions providing them with an unlimited number of enquiries from other investigators.

Users with 10 or more models deposited are charged on a sliding scale that starts at $1,500 for up to 10 models, and up to $10,000 per year for an unlimited number of models.

To sell a model on deposit, researchers are required to pay either 5% of the model price for a nonexclusive license, or 10% of that model price for an exclusive license.

However, the database is free for users to register and search for models, and for users looking to create, save, modify, and share lists of models.

“Our objective is somewhat altruistic in providing a service we hope will help all oncology researchers, and our fees are meant to just a contribution towards the overall costs of running the WOMB so we can maintain the core capability free to all users,” Waterman-Smith said.

Corporate clients can use the database for services enabling their organizations to access and share information, both in parallel to and in the same interface as that which all users will receive. They can identify users as they log in, and display details of depositors within their organization, gene fingerprints, or any other information associated with their models which would otherwise not be available to the general user community.

Looking ahead, Waterman-Smith said there are no plans to move into other disease areas, though it would be simple to do so by extending the platform.

“Hopefully the wider research community will tell us whether they want us to propagate such services,” Waterman-Smith added. “Right now, we have a massive task over the coming year just ensuring we support the oncology research community to the best of our ability, and that will remain our focus for now.”

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