Q: Tell us about your motivation. Why are you interested in species difference?
A: Neither mouse nor monkey is human. However, given the complexity of brain, many researchers have made assumptions of “similarity” between species which have profound impact in clinical success. We strongly believe that many drug failures at the clinical stage have a lot to do with this variability (translational gap).
Q: How do brain maps help you to explore species differences or other variables?
A: Recently created brain maps offer novel opportunities to test differences in many variables along thousands of genes, hundreds of unique brain areas, multiple ages and even neural networks, all potentially affecting drug success in humans. Built in a systematic and comprehensive way, brain maps allow researchers to compare brains across species with unprecedented accuracy and consistency. Increasing numbers and types of brain maps, as envisioned in many nationwide big brain projects of US, EU, Japan, Korea and China, will provide critical information to bridge the translational gap.
Q: Tell us a couple of key benefits of this approach to disease researchers (academics) and pharmaceutical companies (industry)?
A: For disease researchers, it grounds the human relevance of research aims and leads to more effective experimental paths, thereby improving the modeling and understanding of the disease mechanism. For drug developers, it provides new measures to help rank drug targets and predict efficacy/safety concerns, therefore lowering the cost and time to develop a drug.
Q: What’s the strength of Grace Medical Institute in this type of analysis?
A: Making and reading maps takes practice! Scientists at the Grace Medical Institute were instrumental in creating several large-scale brain maps, from gene to circuit and from mouse to human, over the last 10 years or so. Making or advising every step of the data creation process, and constantly exercising the refined anatomical knowledge necessary to evaluate and interpret the results, guarantees that we’re accurate and efficient. Our unique dry-lab setting also allows us a cost-effective and streamlined means to address urgent problems in disease research and drug development. Without the overhead of a laboratory, we concentrate more time and focus to exploit these exciting, jewel-rich, datasets.
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