Now, online database of disease genes that could be targeted with drugs

Washington: Researchers have created a comprehensive database that matches thousands of disease genes with approved or experimental drugs that target those genes.

Twin brothers Obi Griffith, PhD, and Malachi Griffith , PhD at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis created the online database that matches thousands of genes linked to cancer and other diseases with drugs that target those genes.

Some of the drugs are approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, while others are in clinical trials or just entering the drug development pipeline.

Malachi said that they wanted to create a comprehensive database that is user-friendly, something along the lines of a Google search engine for disease genes and that as they move toward personalized medicine, there's a lot of interest in knowing whether drugs can target mutated genes in particular patients or in certain diseases, like breast or lung cancer. But there hasn't been an easy way to find that information.

The database is weighted heavily toward cancer genes but also includes genes involved in Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, diabetes and many other illnesses.

The database is easy to search and geared toward researchers and physician-scientists who want to know whether errors in disease genes - identified through genome sequencing or other methods - potentially could be targeted with existing drug therapies.

The database, which took several years to develop, is publicly available and free to use. It includes more than 14,000 drug-gene interactions involving 2,600 genes and 6,300 drugs that target those genes. Another 6,700 genes are in the database because they potentially could be targeted with future drugs.

Further, many of the existing databases have different ways of identifying genes and drugs, a "language" barrier that can turn a definitive search into an exhaustive exercise.

The database has been described in Nature Methods.