A drug-gene interaction database (DGIdb) has been developed that integrates existing resources to create a vast, comprehensive repository that amounts to a search engine for disease genes. The database matches thousands of genes linked to cancer and other diseases with drugs that target those genes. Intended for researchers, the database does not recommend treatments.

The database is described online in the October 13 issue of Nature Genetics, in a paper entitled “DGIdb: mining the druggable genome.” According to the paper, the druggable genome can be defined as the genes or gene products that are known or predicted to interact with drugs, ideally with a therapeutic benefit to patients. The DGIdb, the paper adds, is designed to help researchers mine existing resources and thereby generate hypotheses about how mutated genes might be targeted therapeutically or prioritized for drug development.

The DGIdb was created by Obi Griffith, Ph.D., and Malachi Griffith, Ph.D., identical twins who worked with a team of scientists at the Genome Institute at Washington University in St. Louis. Experts in bioinformatics, the Griffith brothers got the idea for the drug-gene interaction database after they repeatedly were asked whether list of genes identified through cancer genome sequencing could be targeted with existing drugs.

“It shouldn’t take a computer wizard to answer that question,” said Dr. Obi Griffith, research assistant professor of medicine. “But in reality, we often had to write special software to find out. Now, researchers can quickly and easily search for themselves.”

The new database brings together information from 15 publicly available databases in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia. Users can enter the name of a single gene or lists of many genes to retrieve drugs targeting those genes. The search provides the names of drugs targeted to each gene and details whether the drug is an inhibitor, antibody, vaccine, or another type. The search results also indicate the source of the information so users can dig deeper, if they choose.

“We wanted to create a comprehensive database that is user-friendly, something along the lines of a Google search engine for disease genes,” explained Dr. Malachi Griffith, a research instructor in genetics. “As we move toward personalized medicine, there’s a lot of interest in knowing whether drugs can target mutated genes in particular patients or in certain diseases, like breast or lung cancer. But there hasn’t been an easy way to find that information.”

The database is publicly available and free to use. It includes more than 14,144 drug-gene interactions involving 2,611 genes and 6,307 drugs that target those genes. Another 6,761 genes in the database belong to one or more of 39 potentially druggable gene categories.

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