Lab Product News

University of Alberta research creates world’s largest drug database

Edmonton, AB – Until the 1980s, most of our knowledge about drugs and their targets could fit into a few encyclopedic books. But with the recent explosion in biological and chemical knowledge, that information is now scattered over thousands of textbooks, subscription databases and print journals. Now, thanks to University of Alberta researcher, this previously inaccessible drug information is consolidated and available freely online.

Dr David Wishart, from the departments of computing science and biological sciences and the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, first began working on an online, interactive database as a teaching tool to help his pharmacy students learn more about the molecular details of different drugs.

Wanting to develop one source that offers a broad scope of information, Dr Wishart and his team created DrugBank, the world’s largest and most complete resource on drugs and drug targets. DrugBank contains detailed chemical, pharmaceutical, medical and molecular biological information on more than 3,000 drug targets and 4,100 approved or experimental drugs products.

This one-stop shop allows pharmacists, physicians, drug researchers and the general public to find out just about everything they need to know about a drug or a drug target.

“There is no other resource quite like it,” he says. “With DrugBank you’re never more than a mouse-click away from finding an answer – whether you’re a patient, a pharmacist, a doctor or a scientist.” DrugBank provides more than 80 data fields for each drug including brand names, chemical structures, protein and DNA sequences, links to relevant Internet sites, prescription information and detailed patient information.

For biologists and chemists, DrugBank supports a wide range of sophisticated searches and queries. Combined with DrugBank’s visualization software, these tools allow scientists to easily search for new drug targets, compare drug structures, study drug mechanisms and discover new drug leads.

The diversity of the data types, combined with the fact that the data were mostly paper-bound, made the assembly of DrugBank both difficult and time-consuming. More than a dozen textbooks, several hundred journal articles, nearly 30 electronic databases and at least 20 in-house or web-based programs were individually searched, accessed, compared, written or run over the course of four years.

DrugBank is also playing an important role in another scientific endeavour – The Human Metabolome Project. As lead researcher on this Genome Prairie project – Building The Metabolomics Toolbox – Dr Wishart’s goal is to guide the first group in the world to complete the human metabolome.

Reported by Phoebe Dey, University of Alberta