Systems Pharmacology brings a new combination of mathematical and experimental tools to bear on the discovery and analysis of therapeutic drugs. System-level understanding of pharmacological effects will help to identify new uses for existing drugs, identify those patients most likely to benefit from mono and combination therapies, and make drug discovery and development faster, cheaper, and more predictable.
Current early-phase drug discovery is focused on interactions between a candidate drug and its immediate target; understanding of the multiplicity of interactions between drug-bound target and complex cellular networks is generally poor. Moreover, the clinical phase of drug discovery is often disconnected from mechanistic understanding of targets and networks. As a result, predicting the clinical effects of drugs remains challenging, and many initially promising candidates are found to lack efficacy or to have excessive toxicity midway through the expensive process of clinical trials.
The Harvard Initiative in Systems Pharmacology (ISP) builds on recent progress in the field of systems biology to address these issues, using concepts from classical pharmacology and systems biology. ISP draws its members from multiple departments across Harvard Medical School and is sponsored by the HMS Systems Biology Department, which has helped to pioneer an approach to biomedicine involving investigators from many fields including cell and molecular biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, physics, mathematics and medicine.