The project called “PADRE: Predicting Antiviral Drug Resistance before its Emergence”, developed by Professor Dr. Ana Abecasis and by the Master student Francisco Merca, of the TB, HIV and opportunistic diseases and pathogens (THOP) group, from Global Health and Tropical Medicine (GHTM), got accepted by the 2022 call of the EUTOPIA alliance PhD-Co tutelle programme. This project will be developed in collaboration with Professor Pieter Libin, from the Vrije Universiteit Brussels (VUB) (Department of Artificial Intelligence). As a project developed between the two universities, it will strengthen institutional ties.
“PADRE: Predicting Antiviral Drug Resistance before its Emergence”, consists of developing a computational machine learning tool, for the prediction of antiretroviral drug resistance development in treated HIV populations. As antiretroviral drugs are one important tool to combat HIV transmission and prevent mortality in HIV-positive individuals, antiretroviral drug resistance is one important problem to be tackled. To combat this problem, it is important to be a step ahead of this problem by prediction computational approaches. With the recent advances in artificial intelligence, it is possible to study drug resistance through a combination of computational methods that take into account viral evolution, protein structures and molecular docking. This would facilitate the pre-screening and design of antiretrovirals through anticipating mutational pathways of future HIV viral strains, that could cause resistance to existing drugs. Combined with recent advances in in silico drug design and discovery, this could lead to a novel approach to minimize the likelihood of resistance emergence immediately upon development and design.
The impact of this project can be huge, both in terms of health outcomes, by reducing the morbidity and mortality attributed to antiviral drug resistance, but also economically, contributing to smart molecule design and therefore the development of more effective drugs, allowing to save resources to the pharmaceutical companies during the drug development process. Furthermore, it allows saving money to national health systems related to switches in therapeutic regimens.
This project was one of the 17 projects selected for the 2022 EUTOPIA PhD Co-Tutelle programme. The participating members of the EUTOPIA alliance are: CT Cergy Paris Université (co-ordinators), Vrije Universiteit Brussels, University of Warwick, University of Bolyai-Babes, NOVA University and University of Ca´Foscari.