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German Ministry of Research's QuantPro Funds Liver-Modeling Effort by BTS, IonGate

Bayer Technology Services said this week that it has received an undisclosed amount of funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research’s “QuantPro” initiative to model the transport of drugs in the liver.
Under QuantPro, the ministry is awarding €7 million ($9.7 million) per year for three years to 14 research groups that are using quantitative analysis to elucidate molecular processes.
One beneficiary of the initiative is the liver-modeling effort, which is led by transporter screening firm IonGate Biosciences. Other partners include Bayer subsidiary BTS, Cell Culture Services GmbH, and the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein at the University of Kiel. The consortium’s efforts will focus on modeling functional and genetic variability of hepatobiliary transport in the liver.
Maike Heidelberger, a biotech project manager at the ministry, said it launched the call for QuantPro in 2006 “with the idea of funding the quantitative analysis of the dynamics of cellular processes on the basis of insights gained from qualitative data in genomics, proteomics and/or metabolomics studies already performed.”
The long-term goal of QuantPro, Heidelberger said via e-mail, is to understand the complex interplay of molecular processes in living cells.
IonGate’s Bela Kelety, director of research and development, told BioInform that IonGate is coordinating the liver-modeling project and preparing the assays for the consortium. Data from the company’s assays will be “fed into Bayer’s system which, in turn, optimizes the process of modeling for liver transport of drugs,” Kelety said.
The project will use several BTS software tools, including its PK-Sim software for physiology-based pharmacokinetics and its MoBI package for simulating molecular-level pharmacodynamics. In particular, the company will apply the PK-Pop module of PK-Sim to “simulate the physiological variability of key population groups,” BTS said in a statement.
BTS officials could not be reached for further details prior to press time.
The project is reminiscent of a similar liver-modeling effort being conducted in the US by Entelos. In August, Entelos signed an agreement with the US Food and Drug Administration to develop a “virtual patient” that could be used to predict drug-induced liver injury [BioInform 08-10-07].
“We were expecting there were other efforts coming out like this,” Mikhail Gishizky, chief science officer at Entelos, told BioInform this week.

Drug transport is “one issue that affects drug-induced liver injury, but there are clearly other issues such as metabolism to consider.”

Gishizky explained that there are differences between the two projects, however. “My familiarity with what they are trying to do is … focus on transport of drug within the liver, which is one aspect — and it’s an important aspect.” Entelos, on the other hand, is “looking at drug transport as [only] one issue that affects drug-induced liver injury, but there are clearly other issues such as metabolism to consider.”
He said that Entelos and the FDA are focused on defining the differences between patients who are “tolerators” and those who are “adaptors” or “susceptible patients” for liver injury. The IonGate/BTS consortium, he believes, will also look at the metabolic aspect of drug transport, albeit somewhat “inadvertently.”
Another clear difference in the QuantPro liver modeling project, according to Kelety, is that BTS’s concept of modeling is based on a quantitative description of different steps working together. He said that the Ministry wanted to fund projects that deduce results with a quantitative approach rather than through pure qualitative means.
Kelety said too that IonGate’s participation not only complements Bayer Technology’s, but the other partners’ as well.

He added that each partner will work on a “lab scale,” with each doing its part. The idea is that they will finish in three years, he added, which is “all about project controlling.”

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