3: BUG IN THE SYSTEM

 

The ebullient Samir Brahmachari. “Great science, great literature, all great philosophy comes out of emotional engagement! Not by being professional!” The Professor could be enjoying his retirement. Instead, most days you’ll find working late into the evening at Delhi’s Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, trying to beat one of the biggest threats facing humanity.

Samir on Twitter: @skbrahmachari 

 

 

Eroom’s Law: For every $1 billion spent the number of drugs being approved has been halving ‘approximately every nine years since 1950’. Or, in simple terms, the commercial drug industry has suffered a consistent and precipitous decline in productivity.

(Clicking on the graph will take you to article Diagnosing the Decline in Pharmaceutical R&D Efficiency in Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, although a log-in is required to read the whole thing).

Crowd-sourcing genius Dr. Anshu Bhardwaj, who along with colleague Dr. Vinod Scaria, designed and built the Connect2Decode platform for crowd-sourced genome annotation – helping to create the world’s most thoroughly articulated tuberculosis genome in just four months. “I hardly slept during the annotation project. We were getting phone calls at two in the morning, five in the morning, eleven at night!”

Anshu on twitter: @AnshuB

Click on the Open Source Drug Discovery logo to visit website.

Alan Turing and Srinivasa Ramanujan fan, as well as mathematical genius, Rohit Vashisht who built Samir’s virtual tuberculosis.

‘You wanted to build a simulator so you could see how the bug “flies”?’

 

‘No! I wanted to build a simulator to see how you could crash the bug!’

Rohit on twitter: @vashishtrv

The 5,000 dabbawalas of Mumbai deliver 200,000 ‘tiffins’ containing home-cooked lunches every day to workers in the city. Even the raging monsoon fails to dent their performance. Not bad for a system which is self-managing (every dabbawala is their own boss), engages a semi-literate workforce and relies entirely on bicycles and the public train network. Samir saw that there was something in the way the dabbawalas had solved the complex problem of delivering 200,000 tiffins a day within the organism called Mumbai that could be repurposed to help his team model the complex inner life of a bacterium…

Click on the image for a short volunteer-made documentary about the system.

You can visit the dabbawalas’ website here.

From this…

…to this.

 

From insanely complex metabolic pathway maps (top) to the elegant ‘systems spindle map’ (bottom).

The bottom picture on the left (Rohit and Samir’s ‘Systems Spindle Map’) probably represents the most complete simulation of a bacterium anywhere in the world – a virtual tuberculosis bug that’s revealing the secrets of its real-world brethren. You can find the paper describing the spindle map and its implications here.

‘So, you’re showing me how the bug resists the drug?’

 

‘Yes, we’re mapping how tuberculosis becomes drug-resistant. The simulation can mimic the evolutionary process. Other models cannot do that.’

Using the model Rohit “figured out how a cheap drug that is used to treat diabetes can be used for TB”. The paper is here.