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MSU researcher develops database to help cancer research

By Kara Headley

MSU is developing a large genomic database to assist in cancer immunotherapy research.

Dr. Bin Chen, assistant professor in Michigan State University’s Departments of Pediatrics and Human Development, and Pharmacology and Toxicology, is developing a database to help scientists discover new drugs to fight cancer. 

His lab, the Bin Chen lab at MSU, researches immunotherapy, which utilizes the patient’s immune system to fight off the cancer cells. Chen lab aims to create one of the largest open databases through harmonizing patient genomic data publicly available. His lab is now developing the general bioinformatics pipeline to discover new targets for immunotherapy from the new database.

“The database to be compiled will serve as a great resource for cancer immunotherapy research,” said Chen. “I hope through the partnership with pharmaceutical companies the new targets will be translated into therapeutics in the future.”

This database will also allow for a deeper understanding around immunotherapy research, addressing research questions such as why some patients do not respond to this type of therapy.

By leveraging open genomic data, Chen has successfully identified drug candidates for Ewing’s sarcoma, liver cancer and basal cell carcinoma over the past few years. 

Recently, Chen has partnered with a pharmaceutical company in Silicon Valley to conduct this research with the help of the MSU Innovation Center.

The database will be available for use by said company immediately. From there, the sponsor will give the Chen Lab feedback to shape the research and make it more translational.