‘My first and most important research project to date almost ended with failure.’
Tell us about the most significant challenge you’ve faced or something important that didn’t go according to plan. How did you manage the situation?
My first and most important research project to date almost ended with failure. In 2013 I started a project at Semmelweis University under the guidance of Professor Peter Csermely. The subject of my research was to explore how network-based methods could help to find novel drug targets, which could be used to design drugs with potentially low side effects. I initially approached it by trying to establish a correlation between the number and/or frequency of known side effects to drugs and the ability of the corresponding drug targets to propagate changes in the human protein-protein interaction network (interactome). The change propagation in the network was measured by the "silencing time" (the number of simulation steps needed for a perturbation to dissipate), using an application developed by another member of the group. However, soon it became apparent that there was no connection between these two measures, and the project appeared doomed to failure. Nevertheless, I did not give up. I looked at the obtained results from another perspective, and after careful review of the collected data, I realized that all drugs with reported side effects seemed to have low silencing times, therefore, a larger impact on the network. I could confirm this by further statistical computations. I finally found that drugs with target proteins which were better spreaders of perturbations in the human interactome were more likely to have reported side effects. Thus, despite the initial difficulties, the research did actually bring novel results, which were later published in Nature Scientific Reports (nature.com/articles/srep10182).
- Áron Ricardo Perez-Lopez ’20