DataseamEducator Blog

DataseamGrid Finds “Holy Grail” of Cancer Treatment

Dr. John Trent talks to school technicians about results on DataseamGrid.

(Louisville, Ky) – Nearly ten years ago John Trent Ph.D. of the Molecular Modeling Facility at UofL used the combined power of thousands of computers in classrooms across the state of Kentucky to discover potential compounds that stop cancer from growing.  The University recently announced that their research team is now at a point in the development process to secure a commercial partner to take the technology to the next step.

READ STORY FROM UofL BELOW

John Trent and this team executed several runs on the DataseamGrid in the spring of 2007.  The Grid helped the

Johnson County teacher workshop helped staff maximize use in the classroom.

research team narrow their search of over 12 million potential compounds to about 100 of interest, which they took to the laboratory for further analysis and development.  Additional validation was done on the Grid against larger database of compounds in late 2010.  Like most drugs it would take another decade to narrow the candidates, modify compounds, test and retest before proving they had a potentially viable treatment.

STOPS GROWTH OF ONE-THIRD OF HUMAN TUMORS

At the time the DataseamGrid consisted of about 7,000 machines running in 39 school districts.  There where still a number of the early “white” iMacs and even some of the egg-shaped eMacs doing their job both in the classroom and

powering research.  With more computers and faster processors the current Grid produces ten times the processing speed and

Special dyes help researchers see the active cancer cells.

allows researchers to search with greater accuracy and look at many more possibilities.  The current library is 34 million.

This added power helps UofL cancer researchers not only continue to make groundbreaking discoveries, but also makes it possible for them to attract millions of dollars in federal research grants, talented faculty and researchers, and potential business to the Commonwealth.

(Published July 22, 2020 from University of Louisville)

UOFL TECHNOLOGY THAT MAY INHIBIT PATHWAY FOR CANCER GETS COMMERCIAL PARTNER

By Betty Coffman

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A University of Louisville-born invention that may help treat cancer now has a commercial partner.

Qualigen Therapeutics Inc., a California biotechnology company focused on developing novel therapeutics for the treatment of cancer and infectious diseases, has signed a license agreement for the technology and plans to fund continued development with UofL to ready it for market.

The technology works by targeting the RAS protein, which sends signals that regulate when and where the body produces and grows new cells. When mutated, the protein turns into a “stuck accelerator pedal,” according to UofL researcher Geoffrey Clark, Ph.D., who co-invented the technology with colleagues John Trent, Ph.D., and Joe Burlison, Ph.D.

Dr. Clarke shares the research team’s progress with representatives from Dataseam schools during technology conference.

“Normally, it gets pressed when you need to grow and then the foot comes off and the cell slows down,” said Clark, professor of pharmacology and toxicology at UofL. “When it becomes mutated, the accelerator’s jammed on, with cells continuing to grow and ultimately becoming a cancerous tumor.”

The drug targets only the active RAS protein and, so far, has little toxic effect on healthy cells. Many current non-targeted treatments, such as chemotherapy, can hurt both healthy and cancerous cells, leading to painful side effects. By some estimates, targeting this mutation could stop the growth of at least a third of human tumors.

“The patient impact could be extremely broad because RAS is involved in a lot of different cancers,” Trent said. “It’s one of the holy grails that there has been limited success in targeting.”

Trent leads the Molecular Modeling Facility (MMF) at UofL Health – James Graham Brown Cancer Center and the UofL partnership with Dataseam, a non-profit with a network of school computers across the state. When the computers aren’t being used by students, they’re connected to act as a distributed supercomputer, allowing researchers to process and analyze huge amounts of data.

Trent used that capability to run through millions of cancer-fighting drug possibilities in a matter of days. The result was a drug that could inhibit the deregulated RAS protein. Development of the technology was supported by the UofL NIH REACH ExCITE program.

Qualigen holds an exclusive license to the technology through the UofL Commercialization EPI-Center, which works with startups and industry to commercialize university-owned technologies. This license agreement builds on a sponsored research agreement with Qualigen for the development of several small-molecule RAS Inhibitor drug candidates. Qualigen also has licensed and is developing other UofL technologies for fighting COVID-19 and cancer.

“Partnering on this new cancer-fighting technology is another example of the relationship we’ve developed with the University of Louisville,” said Michael Poirier, CEO of Qualigen. “We look forward to working with UofL and to advancing this important clinical program with the goal of developing an effective treatment for this unmet need.”

DataseamGrid helps UofL researchers identify 30 potential drugs to fight COVID-19

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The novel coronavirus may have K-12 students in Kentucky’s school districts learning at home, but researchers at the University of Louisville are using the computing power of thousands of computers in classrooms across the state to identify drugs to treat COVID-19. The desktop computers are part of the DataseamGrid, a network of computers housed in classrooms of 48 Kentucky school districts as part of a partnership designed to support research, education and workforce development.

John Trent, Ph.D., deputy director of basic and translational research at the UofL Health – James Graham Brown Cancer Center, conducts virtual screening to discover new cancer drugs using the DataseamGrid for high-volume computations. Today, he has the computers at work 24/7 to identify the most promising drugs and compounds to fight SARS-CoV-2 and its disease, COVID-19.

“In these unprecedented times, we had a resource where we could potentially make an impact quickly and switch over from some of our cancer targets to SARS-CoV-2 targets,” Trent said. “We have been very successful in doing this in cancer for 15 years. We are using the same approach in targeting the coronavirus, just targeting a different protein.”

Established in 2003, Dataseam is funded by the Kentucky General Assembly to provide computing infrastructure, workforce development and educational opportunities for students and staff in Kentucky school districts. Available computing power in those units is put to work performing computer modeling calculations to screen anti-cancer drugs for Trent’s team and collaborators at UofL.

“Like a lot of industries, we have shifted our skills and infrastructure to address this issue,” said Brian Gupton, CEO of Dataseam. “We are always going to have cancer, but at least for the time being, we are glad the DataseamGrid is here for Dr. Trent to screen those drugs.”

In mid-March, Trent and his team entered new data onto the DataseamGrid, along with UofL’s dedicated research computers, in a two-pronged approach to match three-dimensional models of proteins in SARS-CoV-2 to drugs and compounds that could help in treating or preventing COVID-19. The DataseamGrid provides up to 80 percent of the computational power for these projects.

The first approach is to test about 2,000 drugs already on the market and another 9,000 investigational drugs and nutraceuticals that have been tested for toxicity to isolate those most likely to be effective against the virus.

“For the immediate approach, we are testing drugs that already are approved by the FDA or have been tested in humans. If we find activity with those drugs, we could get them into patient trials a lot quicker,” Trent said. “However, these drugs obviously were designed for something else and they may not have the same efficacy of a very selective drug.”

To find that selective drug, Trent’s second prong of research includes computational models to screen 37 million small molecules and compounds against the target proteins in SARS-CoV-2. These molecules could be used to develop a new drug specifically to treat the virus. That process would take more time, however, to obtain FDA approval.

“That initial discovery of a new, more-selective agent is more long term. You are looking at 12 to 18 months before you would even think about testing those in a patient,” Trent said. “But time is of essence at the moment, so we are doing both things at the same time.”

Using the DataseamGrid and UofL research computers, Trent and his team are screening the drugs and small molecules against 3-D structures of four proteins in the virus to see which compounds might bind with the proteins. A drug that interferes with the activity of any of these proteins would reduce the virus’s ability to spread.

Trent began the research with the first two proteins described for SARS-CoV-2: the main protease, an essential enzyme used by the virus to break down viral proteins and make new virus particles, and spike proteins, the triangular “knobs” the virus uses to attach itself to host cells. These spikes are the knobs commonly seen in graphic images on the surface of the virus. Trent now also is testing drugs against two additional target proteins that were described very recently.

So far, the process has identified about 30 drugs as potentially effective against SARS-CoV-2. Trent recommended these for biological testing by other UofL researchers in the UofL Center for Predictive Medicine for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases (CPM). Directed by Kenneth Palmer, Ph.D., the CPM is one of only a few labs in the United States capable of testing the drugs against the virus. That testing is expected to begin in mid-April.

If the CPM researchers find the drugs to be effective against SARS-CoV-2 in the lab, they could be moved to the next phase of testing in animal models, testing that also may be conducted at CPM.

“This computer modeling is an excellent way to identify the best potential candidates for laboratory testing rapidly, and this strategy could lead to relief sooner rather than later for patients suffering from COVID-19,” Palmer said.

Gupton says it is good to know the DataseamGrid continues to support urgent medical research even though students are working from home.

“Ironically, we hope to return to cancer research as soon as possible,” Gupton said. “Even though the students are not in classrooms, Kentucky school districts are providing them with instruction, technology, internet access and even meals. The districts’ Dataseam systems engineers are supporting both the university’s work and K-12 efforts. We all are proud to be ‘digital first responders’ in Kentucky’s part of the global fight.”

As part of the Dataseam partnership, UofL provides academic scholarships annually for students from participating school districts who come to the university to pursue a degree in science, technology, engineering or math.

By Betty Coffman, betty.coffman@louisville.edu

Build Your Dream at the University of Louisville

(Louisville, KY) – Thirty-two high school students and parents from Russell Independent, Paducah Tilghman, Elliott County and Whitley County Schools toured the main campus, cancer center and engineering maker space at the University of Louisville to learn about areas of study, career options and scholarship opportunities.

The full day featured visits to the research labs at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center where Dr. John Trent and several teams of scientists use the data processed on the DataseamGrid to search for and develop potential cancer drugs.  The multi-discipline approach employs physicians, engineers, chemists, biologists, computer science specialists and others to fight cancer.

Representatives from the J.B. Speed School of Engineering outlined degrees available and highlighted work experience each student receives through internships at local companies.  Students graduate in five years with a Master of Engineering degree and marketable work experience that takes them beyond the books.

Students were really impressed with the associated 1B First Build professional maker space where students can co-create potential products.   Backed by GE Appliances, the campus facility provides students access to world-class engineering and design talent as well as some of the latest manufacturing equipment.

Students from schools in the Dataseam program interested in studying Engineering, Science, Medical Research or Health Sciences should apply today (link).  Specific DataseamScholarships as well as other programs to help with the cost of college are available.  Deadline January 15.

Partnering universities have provided over $2.2 million in 4-year scholarships to students from Dataseam-participating schools to advance Kentucky’s workforce in STEM and STEM education.

Dataseam Education and Workforce Pipeline

(Frankfort, KY- October 2, 2019) – Representatives from Dataseam reported progress on Dataseam workforce initiatives to the Kentucky General Assembly Interim Joint Committee on Education.  This economic and workforce development initiative not only supplies computers to Kentucky schools and conducts cancer drug discovery research, but also is providing industry-standard technology certifications, student apprentice opportunities and college scholarships as important education and workforce byproducts of this unique effort.

Dataseam CEO Brian Gupton pointed out in addition to 2,232 Apple workstations recently placed in Kentucky schools and increased capacity to run cancer research for the University of Louisville Brown Cancer Center, Dataseam is in the middle of an extensive industry certification program for school technology professionals.  Morehead State University and the University of Louisville continue to recruit and provide STEM-based scholarships to students totaling over $2.5 million.  Dataseam is working with participating schools to employ students in a U.S. Department of Labor Certified, Information Technology apprenticeship program.  It is a first of its kind in Kentucky.

Parker Smith shared his professional journey as part of the Dataseam training initiatives that have culminated in his dream job as CIO of Williamsburg Independent Schools.  “The industry certifications, professional networking and support, along with the opportunities to engage resources on a national level have helped this country boy from Clay County to do things I could not imagine,” said Smith.

Smith is an Apple Certified Support Professional, managing Dataseam technologies for research and education.  As part of its workforce development efforts, Dataseam has trained and certified more Apple professionals, as a percentage of population, than any other state.

Paige Hart, currently a 3rd year medical school student at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, and former Dataseam Scholar, talked about coming full circle in her education and career.  “I dream of the day that I have my full circle moment when I used Dataseam computers as a student in Caldwell County to the day as a physician I give information on the drugs produced by those same computers,” Hart said.

Blake McCullah, one of the current IT apprentices and Whitley County High School student testified about why the Dataseam program is different. “I worked and learned about computer repair, system maintenance and computer network issues.  And since this was my first job, I had to open a back account,” said McCullah.

“We have reported in the past on cancer research made possible by the DataeamGrid, but today we provided context, reality and faces to the education and workforce outcomes of our efforts with our K-12 and university partners,” said Gupton, “The investments by University of Louisville and Morehead State; the industry-standard training and certification; the opportunity and employability for participants enhance the return on the state investment in the Dataseam program.”

Dataseam built and manages one of the most powerful high-performance computing environments in the world.  Kentucky K-12 school districts and 3 universities across the state work with Dataseam to enhance education, research and economic development in Kentucky.  http://www.kydataseam.com/about

Even when being used by students and teachers, the computers lend their computing power to the DataseamGrid which runs advanced cancer drug discovery efforts for the University of Louisville James Graham Brown Cancer Center.

At the University of Louisville James Graham Brown Cancer Center, researchers and physician scientists work to create new and more effective approaches to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, delivering the most advanced treatments to cancer patients with compassion and respect.  https://uoflbrowncancercenter.org

Expanding School Technology Requires Advanced Certification

(Louisville, Kentucky) – District technology specialists from across the state recently earned a macOS Support Essentials certification.

School districts receive computers, technical and education training, as well as student college scholarships and other benefits as part of the Dataseam Program.  Dataseam has provided Kentucky schools over 26,000 computers and trained over 8,000 educators and technicians.  Because of this effort Kentucky has the largest number of Apple System Engineers per capita in the United States.

“The education sector is one of Kentucky’s largest employers and one of its largest consumers of technology. We don’t always think of education as an industry segment but these technology professionals employed in Kentucky’s K-12 schools are part of the Commonwealth’s next-generation workforce,” said Brian Gupton, Dataseam CEO.

Dataseam built and manages one of the most powerful high-performance computing environments in the world.  Kentucky K-12 school districts and 3 universities across the state work with Dataseam to enhance education, research and economic development in Kentucky.  http://www.kydataseam.com/about

The new computers will be in math, science, engineering and testing classrooms across the state.  When not being used by students the the computers lend their computing power to the DataseamGrid which runs advanced cancer drug discovery efforts for the University of Louisville James Graham Brown Cancer Center.

At the University of Louisville James Graham Brown Cancer Center, researchers and physician scientists work to create new and more effective approaches to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, delivering the most advanced treatments to cancer patients with compassion and respect. https://uoflbrowncancercenter.org

 

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