Virtual Assay drug screening software V.3.0

Image from Licence Details: Virtual Assay drug screening software V.3.0

Virtual Assay, user-friendly and easy to use software, offers a quick and economical methodology for in silico drug trials, with the potential of replacing in vitro animal experiments in the pre-clinical phase of drug development.

Virtual Assay starts with well-understood and biophysically-detailed cellular cardiac models and modulates the parameters to generate a range or population of models, accounting for inter-cellular variability. These populations are then calibrated against experimental data, retaining only those models in the range with experimental observations.

Once calibrated, these populations can be used to analyse the effects of different pharmaceutical agents on cardiac cellular responses. Models in the population will respond differently to the same input, thus giving a qualitative and quantitative evaluation of drug-induced changes at the population level, and allowing for predictions of risk of adverse cardiac events following drug application.

Evidence that drug safety and efficacy testing could one day be conducted by a computer rather than on animals has led a team at the University of Oxford to develop Virtual Assay software. The Virtual Assay software has the potential to replace thousands of in vitro animal experiments used globally each year for this purpose. A recent evaluation study on 62 reference compounds has predicted the risk that these drugs would cause abnormal heart rhythms in patients with 89% accuracy, while similar studies conducted in animals showed ~75-85% accuracy.

Everyone is different

No two individuals respond to a drug in exactly the same way. Due to sometimes subtle variability at a physiological level, what works for one person may not work for another, even before taking into account any additional complicating factors. This is one of the most significant challenges faced by the pharmaceutical industry; clearly, it is neither practical nor desirable to test a new drug on the entire population to ensure it is both safe and effective.

Drug cardiac safety

Ensuring a drug does not have potentially harmful or unexpected side-effects for the heart is a top priority, and a rigorous testing phase is required before a drug can be approved for clinical use. Even then, unforeseen problems can occur due to the large variability in patient populations, exacerbation of other pre-existing diseases or interactions with other drugs. Early detection of potential side effects is crucial, since cardiotoxicity is one of the leading causes of drug failure during development, and it also accounts for about 45% of total post-approval drug withdrawal from the market.

“Virtual” screening with Virtual Assay

To overcome this, in silico modelling is becoming increasingly important in pharmacology, for both drug efficacy and safety testing and is attracting significant attention from the commercial sector and regulatory bodies such as the US FDA, UK MHRA, and the European MRA.

Virtual Assay also makes in silico drug trials in populations of human models accessible by non-experts in modelling and simulations, providing a user-friendly interface and a very efficient simulation engine (1 drug trials takes about 5 minutes for 100 cells using a modern PC).

Key advantages:

  • Human-based models, tightly coupled with experiments
  • Populations of models to account for inter-cellular variability
  • Quantitative prediction of the effects of drugs at the population level
  • Mechanistic explanations into the causes of drug effects
  • Consultancy services also available
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