Proteins are used by cells as tools to carry out most of their biological processes, ranging from the respiration or metabolism of nutrients, to the sending and processing of intra- and intercellular signals, and to maintaining cellular shape, ensuring growth and controlling cell division. The activities of the proteins responsible for these activities can usually be regulated by binding small molecules to them, a property that is often used in rational drug design.
The Scientists Against Malaria (SAM) consortium was formed in 2010 by Douglas Connect (DC) from the InnovationWell Neglected Diseases Collaboration Pool as a virtual drug discovery organization to collaborate on the design of kinase inhibitors against the P. falciparum malarial parasite. In theory, to find a drug that is active against a chosen protein target it would be sufficient to test every possible candidate chemical to see if it substantially inhibited the target protein’s function.
From the viewpoint of SYNERGY, the goal of the SAM pilot was to test the SYNERGY services and to evaluate their ability to support and facilitate the collaborative work. The SAM VO consisted of nine public and private organizations located in six different countries, covering three different continents. Ensuring an efficient and effective collaboration within this international group of people is not trivial, and thus could greatly benefit from an effective collaboration support infrastructure tailored for supporting VO-based projects.
One of the first activities of SAM was to identify a protein target whose function is essential to the survival of Plasmodium. It was agreed to focus on the kinase family of proteins. Cristian Doerig suggested several kinases whose proper functions are known from reverse genetics data to be essential for the malarial parasite. These suggested kinases were evaluated for their feasibility for SAM.