FRAME has concluded its 50th anniversary celebrations by holding its 18th Annual Lecture at The Wellcome Trust in London.
The lecture took place on Thursday 17th October and concluded a busy year of FRAME events including a Symposium at the University of Nottingham and a Training School at the beginning of the year. The lecture was well attended by a variety of supporters and collaborators including representatives from Boots, Unilever, The Kennel Club and the European Animal Research Association.
Professor Blanca Rodriguez, leader of the Computational Cardiovascular Science Team at the University of Oxford, gave her keynote lecture on ‘Human In Silico Trials for Drug Safety and Efficacy Evaluation’ which instigated some thoughtful dialogue and questions from attendees. Professor Rodriquez also serves as a member of the Board of the National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research and provides expert advice on in silico methods for toxicology and pharmacology assessment to industry and organisations such as the US Food and Drug Administration.
Professor Rodriguez’s lecture covered her work in applying computer science and mathematics to cardiology and pharmacology problems.
In silico trials use modelling and simulation for drug efficacy and safety testing. It is hoped that this can replace some aspects of animals testing, and we are already witnessing some concrete examples of this. Modelling and simulation has been used for many years in other sectors, such as engineering: ‘Nobody would develop a plane without actually simulating the behaviour or the ability of that plane to fly.’
Applying in silico methodology to drug and device development is a natural step based on our understanding of human physiology.
However, a key problem in the development of medicines and the evaluation of efficacy and safety is that of population heterogeneity. To predict the outcome of a therapy it is important to understand what makes us different and how that difference will affect drug safety and efficacy.
With that knowledge it is possible to progress towards ‘virtual testing’ and the creation of computer models and anatomical models, combined with mathematical equations to help understand and make predictions.
Using high performance computers and very sophisticated technology activity can be simulated on different anatomical models.
‘This is very difficult to do with patients alone, but with mathematical and computational models we are able to do this. Once we build enough credibility on those models in comparison with patient data we will be able to use these for drug testing. This is the vision.’
It is also important to understand functional variability in the population in terms of the physiology. This is harder to assess as we don’t have non-invasive ways to gain this information. There is a lot of research looking at how we are all different because of genetic differences and how this can affect drug safety.
Professor Rodriguez shared a number of detailed examples, and the lecture provided opportunity for a lively and interactive questions and answer session.
Commenting, Professor Rodriguez said: “I was delighted to be invited to speak at the FRAME Annual Lecture. I first came across FRAME many years ago when I attended a similar event. I was fascinated by the work FRAME carries out.”
Amy Beale, Scientific Liaison Officer at FRAME added: “The Annual Lecture was the closing event for our 50th Anniversary Year. Professor Rodriguez’ lecture on in silico models as a potential alternative to using animals in clinical trials was insightful and fascinating. To know that these genuine alternatives exist is reassuring.”
Following the lecture, guests, supporters and members of FRAME enjoyed the opportunity to network over canapés and drinks.
You can watch the lecture in full on our on YouTube Channel here.