FRAUNHOFER repurposes technologies from the AETIONOMY project to fight SARS-CoV-2

In the course of the AETIONOMY project, Martin Hofmann-Apitius (Fraunhofer SCAI) and partners developed new methods for the representation of disease mechanisms in computable models of disease. The technology developed during the AETIONOMY project has recently been used to create the Human Brain Pharmacome, a drug-target network comprising the vast majority of information on drugs and experimental compounds active in the human brain.  In the Human Brain Pharmacome, this knowledge is combined with mechanism-representations, constructing a huge knowledge base on disease mechanisms, drug targets within these mechanisms and the drugs that bind to them.

However, the AETIONOMY technology also has wider uses beyond the brain.  “When Coronavirus hit us all, something incredible happened,” Martin Hofmann-Apitius told us.  “The entire scientific community stood together and joined forces. We were asked to contribute our technology basis developed in AETIONOMY for a new knowledge base, this time on compounds and drugs published as potential candidate drugs for SARS-CoV-2.”

Now, the Fraunhofer SCAI computers run day and night to extract useful information from a broad variety of publications; they extract information from tables with drug structures and their targets, as well as quantitative information listed in publications. Some of the services are improved and enriched by technologies coming from other Fraunhofer Institutes; it is hoped that they will be able to provide the scientific community with an automated information extraction pipeline for SARS-CoV-2 within the next few weeks.

“Needless to say,” says Martin Hofmann-Apitius, “when we started all that in the field of neurodegeneration, we never anticipated the re-use of our technology in virology.”