By Tim Cheeseright, PhD, CEO, Torx Software
Discovery chemistry has progressed significantly in recent years. Scientists now have access to more information than ever, from the development of new computational models to a growing library of scientific and patent literature. Many organizations now outsource at least some part of their operations to specialist providers in the drive to reduce costs and accelerate pipelines.
Torx is a chemistry aware, web-based platform that connects all project stakeholders in a single application. It allows users to capture all hypotheses, compounds and relevant information in their desired formats and share securely with external collaborators. By promoting effective teamworking and knowledge exchange, Torx drives research productivity and lowers the time to clinical candidates.
Design-Make-Test-Analyze: The key to productivity in discovery research
The Design-Make-Test-Analyze (DMTA) cycle is the ubiquitous process followed by small molecule discovery teams, irrespective of the therapeutic area or target pathway. DMTA cycle times drive productivity. As each step of the cycle is dependent on the output of the other three, cycle time relies heavily on effective communication between all parties involved. Using multiple tools to complete the DMTA cycle can result in a distinct lack of coordination, which is further compounded if team members are split across different organizations and geographies. As teams work through many iterations of the cycle on the path to optimizing a new drug candidate, even small gains in cycle time are amplified to yield significant improvements in productivity.
The rise of outsourcing: A quicker path to candidate selection?
Strategic outsourcing of DMTA offers a promising method of accelerating drug discovery workflows, and has seen a rise in popularity in response to the increasing demands and costs of pharmaceutical R&D. In fact, this trend has led to the emergence of virtual pharmaceutical companies, where whole projects are outsourced to specialist contract service providers, and activities are coordinated by a core management team. This approach is particularly attractive to biotech companies focused on early-stage discovery and can offer a rapid path from hypothesis to proof of concept. However, the separated nature of these relationships introduces significant communication challenges that can hinder project progress, including:
- Verbal: teams trying to communicate while spanning multiple countries and languages
- Technical: the secure transfer of large amounts of data in different formats
- Time-shift: collaborators operating in different time zones, sometimes more than eight hours apart, having difficulty finding a common time for verbal communication
With recent advances in technology, it may seem like scientists are well equipped for such challenges. However, very few applications are able to understand the complex chemistry needed to record designs, compounds, and their associated data effectively. Additionally, the myriad of communication tools on offer often fragments information rather than centralizing it. It is often the case that the list of molecules that are in synthesis, or that have been submitted for biological analysis, is contained in spreadsheets and slide decks that cannot be searched effectively.
Torx: A comprehensive knowledge database and management tool across DMTA
Torx connects the network of individuals, teams and collaborators involved in a discovery project in a single web-based platform. It removes non-value-adding components of the traditional DMTA workflow, fostering cohesive teamwork and driving faster cycles through integrated scheduling and task management. Dedicated standalone modules for Design, Make, Test, and Analyze work in synergy to deliver a complete discovery cycle solution:
Torx Design™: Use all available information to sketch new molecules and view metadata in 2D and 3D. Share and discuss ideas with team members in real time in a collaborative design environment.
Torx Make™: Track synthesis progress across all project compounds. Prioritize, schedule, and co-ordinate syntheses across in-house and
Torx Test™: Automate the request of biological and physiochemical assays for all newly synthesized compounds and monitor progress in real time.
Torx Analyze™: Use insightful analysis of compound data to inform the next design iteration.
The inclusion of computational methods in small molecule discovery has further highlighted the benefits of streamlining communication, particularly through the Design-Make transition. Synthetic chemists have foresight on new molecules during the design phase and can inform on prioritization based on their experience and insight.
Disparate teams and systems can be tied together to coordinate actions across multiple locations and time zones. Teams can define common terminology and language, mutually agreed definitions, and nomenclature to describe project milestones. With a modern API, Torx can integrate seamlessly with the plethora of IT systems that underpin modern drug discovery organizations. Data can be consumed from systems such as inventory databases and electronic lab notebooks and presented back to the user in a fully customizable view.
Accelerate research progress with intelligent decision making
Torx presents users with a top-level overview of all projects within the company portfolio. Having visibility of the status of all compounds across DMTA, the scientists involved, milestones, and projected dates enables research managers to make informed decisions around resource management and drive productivity.
Particularly in the case of larger or cross-site teams, there is a risk of multiple scientists working on the same idea. By acting as a comprehensive knowledge database, Torx will immediately flag this scenario and prevent any duplication of effort. Being able to search through historic data prevents redesigning compounds that have been attempted already (“project amnesia”).
Looking forward, capturing project outcomes, both positive and negative, allows the key decision makers to accurately measure KPIs. Learned information can be used to steer project direction and accelerate toward the selection of clinical candidates.
Securely share information with team members and collaborators
Torx grants full control over the roles and permissions given to invited users and the information made available to them. This gives confidence that you are communicatingsecurely and privately with every partner with no risk of information leakage. Individuals no longer have to rely on email and other static forms of knowledge transfer to deliver updates and ensure that all stakeholders are aligned.
Torx is a live system that supports real-time dialogue between collaborators without the need for resource-intensive written reporting. This continuous exchange of information supports the dynamic nature of scientific discovery. It allows teams to work together more effectively to inspire innovation and creativity. Meetings can now be dedicated to strategic discussions around project direction, allowing the work to progress more quickly.
The ubiquitous Design-Make-Test-Analyze cycle provides a cornerstone to consider and improve R&D productivity. The challenge is now one of communication between team members and information silos, both internally and across multiple organizations. Torx acts as a centralized repository that allows users to capture, share, and evaluate all ideas and gained knowledge.
If you would like to integrate one or more of the Design, Make, Test or Analyze modules, or the complete Torx platform into your workflow, request your evaluation and receive installation support, one-to-one training, and access to our dedicated helpdesk: www.torx-software.com/torx-evaluation-request