The Pistoia Alliance and HELM – an open information standard for the molecular representation of Biologics
Alex Drijver (Pistoia Alliance, USA / ChemAxon, Hungaria)
Sergio Rotstein (Pfizer, USA)
Tianhong Zhang (Pfizer, USA)
Roland Knispel (ChemAxon, Hungaria)
The share of biopharmaceutical substances - or Biologics - in pharma R&D portfolios has grown substantially in recent years. Current informatics tools, which have been primarily designed to work with small molecules and unmodified, unconjugated biological sequences, lack capabilities for supporting the molecular complexity of novel biotherapeutic agents, such as antibody drug conjugates (ADCs), which commonly incorporate unnatural, conjugated or otherwise modified building blocks. The Hierarchical Editing Language for Macromolecules (HELM) was developed by Pfizer researchers to address this gap (see J. Chem. Inf. Model 2012, 52, 2796-2806) and is now proposed as a versatile approach for general Biologics handling.
The Pistoia Alliance, a diverse organization aiming to foster pre-competitive, collaborative innovations for improved R&D processes, has initiated the HELM project to promote HELM as an industry-wide information standard for describing Biologics. Wide-spread adoption of HELM is anticipated to have a substantial impact on cost reduction and improve Biologics R&D efficiency in increasingly collaborative and cross-functional environments. An initial standard definition document was created and an open source reference implementation, comprising of a notation toolkit and graphical bio-molecule editor, was released. Being an open standard, extensions to HELM will be driven by the evolving needs of its user-base. Discussion and suggestions for extending HELM are encouraged to ensure relevance and long term stability of this standard.
This talk is intended to draw attention to this project and will briefly touch upon achievements since its initiation in Q4 2012. We will describe current capabilities and limitations of the HELM standard, elaborate on the expected impacts of HELM in improving and consolidating biological information management, information exchange and registration solutions - both from the perspective of the pharmaceutical industry and from vendors of information management solutions.