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Using algorithms to find drugs

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

Wednesday, 23/09/2020

Jan Baumbach, Professor of Experimental Bioinformatics at the Technical University of Munich, has developed an analysis platform that can be used to search for drugs to treat coronavirus. Now the professor has accepted a call to the Universität Hamburg and will present his research in a digital lecture series on Wednesday.

Parkinson's, cancer and Alzheimer's - these are the complex diseases that Prof. Jan Baumbach is mainly concerned with. He develops algorithms and machine learning methods to extract information from molecular biological data that reveal the mechanisms of diseases. The main goal is to better understand disease mechanisms in order to derive individual computer-aided treatment options.

Online platform for drug search for COVID-19

When SARS-CoV-2 shut down the world at the beginning of the year, Baumbach had the idea of transferring his research approaches to this viral infectious disease. Within four weeks, his team of 15 scientists developed an online data analysis platform, the Coronavirus Explorer (CoVex). The idea is not to develop new drugs, but to search for existing and approved drugs to combat the virus. "For this purpose, we have combined over ten internationally available databases and developed several algorithms that are capable of identifying networks between active ingredients," says the bioinformatician. "And with this network-based approach, the identification of potential drugs can be accelerated."

Another special feature of this approach is that the drugs in the database are not directed against the proteins of the virus, but against the interaction partners in human cells. "This blocks the metabolic pathways in human cells that the virus needs in order to multiply," says Baumbach.

Research at the Leibniz ScienceCampus InterACt

Now Prof. Baumbach has accepted a call from the Universität Hamburg and will in future hold the professorship "Computational Systems Biology". Here he will work increasingly in the field of infection and inflammation research. The professorship is located at the Department of Informatics and is part of the Leibniz Science Campus "Integrative Analysis of pathogen-induced compartments" (InterACt).

Website and blog of the online data analysis platform CoVex:


On Wednesday, 23.09. at 4 pm, Prof. Jan Baumbach will present his research in a lecture which is part of a digital series on SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19 research. The talks are aimed at a specialist audience, but are also open to all interested parties. Further information and registration can be found here.

About the Person

Prof. Dr. Jan Baumbach studied scientific computer science at the University of Bielefeld and received his doctorate at the Center for Biotechnology. After two years as a postdoc at the University of California in Berkeley and three years as a group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Computer Science in Saarbrücken, he was appointed Professor of Computational BioMedicine at the University of Southern Denmark. Since 2018 he is head of the Chair of Experimental Bioinformatics at the Tech