One of the barriers to discovering new antibiotics is a lack of information sharing. Despite a long history of antibiotic research, scientists often cannot build on past work, or avoid repeating mistakes, because research findings are scattered across the academic literature or not publicly available. The field has also experienced a significant brain drain, losing years of experience as industry research-and-development teams have downsized or shifted to other therapeutic areas. And to make matters worse, the science itself—finding molecules that can break through the defenses of the toughest bacteria—is very difficult.
To help address these challenges, Pew created the Shared Platform for Antibiotic Research and Knowledge (SPARK), a cloud-based, virtual laboratory that enables scientists to share data and insights, learn from past research, and generate new insights into how molecules enter and stay inside of Gram-negative bacteria. Using technology developed by Collaborative Drug Discovery, Inc., SPARK integrates chemical and biological data from published studies as well as previously unpublished data, and provides an opportunity for real-time collaboration among scientists in industry, academia, government, and the nonprofit sector.
Similar data-sharing tools have successfully catalyzed drug discovery in other research areas, such as cancer, neglected tropical diseases, and tuberculosis. Pew hopes that SPARK will do the same for antibiotic-resistant bacteria.