Argument against “DIY computational drug-discovery” trend in Bangladesh

I’m seeing a trend that bioscience students from Bangladesh (South Asia in general) are increasingly interested in publishing papers on computational drug design. Many bright students, undergrad or freshly graduated, are actually publishing drug designing related papers in good journals.

I have also done similar projects. But now, I think it is a bad trend.

While it is completely sound to do computational simulations for drug discovery, however, most of the published articles I’m seeing seem to motivated to get a “publication”, with a hope that these “publication” will help to get opportunities for higher studies abroad.

It is understandable that since our universities in Bangladesh do not provide enough good opportunities to have research experience under supervision of good mentor, many bright students are leaning to jump in such “do it yourself drug design and publish it” endeavors.

I have few arguments to make against this trend.

First of all, any kind of computational simulation studies like this have almost no value if you do not characterize and verify it further in the wet lab. I have seen only a handful projects where the researchers actually tested the ligand interactions in wet-lab.

Even if the wet-lab tests are promising, these drug targets need to go through several round of clinical trials.

If you compare these computational drug design projects with antibiotic resistance studies, I think the later one has more value since it actually characterizing something (although antibiotic resistance studies does not seem to be very cool).

Secondly, “do-it-yourself computational drug design” approach is not necessarily doing science even if you can snatch a good publication. I believe research in science is something that need to be learned through a mentor-mentee relationship. Therefore even if doing undergrad/masters research project under a experienced supervisor does not give you a “paper”, still is still more valuable since it is giving you a first hand “research experience”.

Many falsely believe otherwise, but for getting into a Ph.D. or M.S. program in USA, having publication is not a prerequisite. Although having some kind of research experience definitely helps.

Thirdly, the research techniques for computational drug design does not seem to be very useful in most of the research labs. In the USA, I have not seen that other researchers employing such techniques of molecular docking. Although I’m sure that some lab definitely uses these simulation, but it does not seem to be in the mainstream bioinformatics method used.

On the other hand, learning how to code and analyze Next-Gen Sequencing data is more valuable, and will take you further down the career.

If someone is highly interested in bioinformatics, I would recommend learning Python/R/Unix as well as NGS tools, rather than “discovering yet another drug target that nobody will characterize”.

I’m not against dry lab. We need both wet- and dry-lab techniques since bioscience becoming data heavy day by day. The main problem is there are almost no opportunity doing any research in Bangladesh which encourage them taking short-cuts. This is indeed a large-scale problem in academia in Bangladesh. I have really good experience with working with undergraduate students in the USA. They can learn really fast, and highly motivated to work. Our higher study system definitely needs a huge upgrade rather than blaming each other.


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