Coronavirus caught us all off guard. Can we prevent a future pandemic?, The system would make it easier for researchers from different nations to communicate the molecular makeup of the next pathogen posing a biological threat.
Researchers are calling for the development of an “advanced information system” (AIS) to better prepare for the next pandemic, according to research led by the University of Virginia.
Coronavirus caught us all off guard. Can we prevent a future pandemic?
The system would make it easier for researchers from across the globe to communicate the molecular makeup of the next pathogen that poses a biological threat to the world.
An AIS would allow scientists to quickly develop an understanding of the virus, treatments, vaccines and how to prevent its spread, which holds the potential to save countless lives.
“Structural models and other experimental results produced by various laboratories must follow a standard evaluation procedure to ensure that they are accurate and conform to accepted scientific standards,” said Wladek Minor, PhD, Harrison Distinguished Professor of Molecular Physiology and Biological Physics at UVA.
“Standardized validation is important for all areas of biomedical sciences, especially for structural models, which are often used as a starting point in subsequent research, such as computer-guided drug docking studies and data mining. Even seemingly insignificant errors can lead such research astray,” he added.
The international team, led by UVA, claims that its critical that the structural data and how it spreads are as accurate as possible, when being communicated from one set of researchers to the others and that the scientists within their fields are speaking the same language as one another when discussing the findings.
The AIS – which would essentially be a compilation of all this data in a conformed manner across research disciplines – would be able to identify structures in the molecular makeup which could be “refined and improved,” the researchers note. This information specifically is what leads to the development of treatments and other preventative measures when preventing another pandemic.
Within the scope of the COVID-19 pandemic, data from around the world was collected in the Protein Data Bank. However, Less than 1% needed significant reinterpretation and less than 10% could be optimized by moderate revisions,” UVA said in a statement. Meaning that while the data came in swiftly, it wasn’t always completely accurate or even able to be understood correctly.
“Almost 100,000 COVID-19-related papers have been published and over a thousand models of macromolecules encoded by SARS-CoV-2 have been experimentally determined in about a year,” said Minor. “No single human can possibly digest this volume of information.”
“We believe that the most promising solution to information overload and the lack of effective information retrieval is the creation of an advanced information system that is capable of harvesting results from all relevant resources and presenting the information in instructive ways that promote understanding and knowledge,” he added.
“Creating an AIS will undoubtedly require the collaboration of many scientists who are experts in their respective fields, but it seems to be the only way to prepare biomedical science for the next pandemic,” the researchers said in their findings.
“In the history of humanity, the COVID-19 pandemic is relatively mild by comparison with the bubonic plague (Black Death) that killed a hundred times more people,” the researchers concluded. “We might not be so lucky next time.”