By the time a new drug reaches phase II clinical trials, the pharmaceutical company has invested millions of dollars and years of research and development. If late-stage trials show that the drug is insufficiently effective or causes unacceptable side effects, much of that investment is wasted. This phase II attrition poses serious challenges for pharmaceutical companies, not only for financial reasons, but also because it drains development resources away from successful new treatments.
Pfizer researchers use computational tools such as MATLAB® and SimBiology® to support model-based drug development and help reduce phase II attrition. “A growing database of published biological studies provides snapshots of the enormously complex systems that make up the human body,” says Dr. Neil Benson, associate research fellow in the department of Pharmacokinetics, Dynamics and Metabolism (PDM) at Pfizer. “SimBiology enables us to construct sophisticated models of biological systems based on available research data. By simulating these systems we can better understand their kinetics and dynamics and then use that understanding to focus our research on the most promising biological targets.”