Lilly, Novartis and Pfizer join with Broad Institute for bioinformatics challenge

Governments and businesses have used scientific challenges to kick-start innovation for hundreds of years, with technological advances spurring fresh interest in the format over the past decade. Now, a clutch of Big Pharma companies is backing a competition to create predictive models that could lead to new targets for cancer drugs.

Eli Lilly ($LLY), Novartis ($NVS) and Pfizer ($PFE) are among the data funders of the competition, which calls for the development of models that show how essential a gene is to the survival of a cancer cell. The genes most closely linked to cancer cell survival could become therapeutic targets for drug discovery teams. The Broad Institute is providing experimental data from tests on cultures of cancer cell lines to support the project, while IBM ($IBM) is contributing computational resources.

The competition is part of the Dialogue for Reverse Engineering Assessments and Methods (DREAM) project, which has now successfully run 27 such challenges. Since 2013, Sage Bionetworks has worked with DREAM on the challenges, and its open bioinformatics system, Synapse, is at the heart of the latest competition. DREAM will invite the best performers to present their results at a conference in November.

Contributors to another DREAM challenge are also scheduled to present at the conference. The second challenge calls for ways to predict outcomes in acute myeloid leukemia patients using clinical cytogenetics, known genetic markers and phosphoproteomic data. A third challenge--which was first announced in 2013 but has only just begun--is investigating the best biomarkers for the early stages of cognitive decline in people with Alzheimer's disease.

- read the release
- and Broad's blog post