Drug-gene database aims to simplify research

Peter Jones | Contributing Reporter

A Washington University medical school professor and his brother have released a database that will allow cancer researchers to explore drug-gene interactions more easily.

Obi and Malachi Griffith, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine, have been working for the past two years to provide cancer researchers with a new tool for exploring drug-gene interactions. The result is the Drug Gene Interaction Database (DGIdb), an international collection of databases that contain drug-gene interaction data.

The purpose of DGIdb is to streamline this data to make it easier and more convenient for researchers to find. Before, a researcher developing a new gene-targeted drug would have had to visit several websites with differing interfaces and jargon that made it hard for researchers to find the data they needed.

Junior Nick Spies, a biology major, has been working on the project since this past summer.

“A lot of the data is spread out in many different ways…there’s really not a standardized way to put drug gene interaction data out to the public. That was the big thing we were trying to accomplish,” Spies said. “We tried to make it source as many different already-available databases so it can be a one-stop shop for drug-gene interactions.”

When users visit the DGIdb, they are given the option of running a search with sample genes, guided by help buttons and information balloons to make the site viewer-friendly. The database includes sources from general databases, but users can also restrict their search results to cancer-related drug-gene interactions specifically, which is the Griffiths’ research focus.

While the site is currently only for research purposes, the Griffiths said that the end goal of the research is personalized medicine, allowing commonplace patients to be sequenced.

“The interaction between genes and drugs, I could imagine, [has] educational value for people interested in the medical profession,” Malachi Griffith said.

The current DGIdb is an initial release, and a second release is being planned within the next two years.