The mission of the BIOVIA Science Council is to “to enhance the scientific excellence and build the prestige of BIOVIA’ scientists, software and services by guiding the direction of company-wide applied science innovation, in alignment with the company strategy.” Part of what the Science Council does is to recognize and reward important scientific contributions and scientists at BIOVIA, and one of the ways we do this is to periodically recognize a BIOVIA Scientist with our Most Valuable Player Award. The 2016 and first awardee is Dr. Velin Spassov.
Dr. Spassov joined the Life Sciences R&D department at Accelrys in 2000 and has spent the past 16 years as an integral member of the BIOVIA Discovery Studio R&D team. His many innovative contributions have helped develop the unique capabilities that have made Discovery Studio into today’s best-in-class protein modeling application. His indispensable value lies in his ability to convert his deep scientific knowledge of the continuum electrostatics model of proteins into usable methods that allow even novice users to easily solve real problems.
Dr. Spassov’s impact began to be felt shortly after his arrival at BIOVIA, as he developed his now patented method for modeling membrane proteins by using an “implicit membrane” approach. His work has always utilized the cutting edge of science in its design, such as his method to optimize side chain and loop conformation of protein structures using CHARMM.
The significance of Dr. Spassov’s groundbreaking work has been recognized both in industry and academia; for example, in 2009 an independent review paper by Potapov determined his method had the best modeling accuracy for large data sets. The strength of Dr. Spassov’s approach lies in balancing rigorous but accurate physical models with faster, more empirical models to quickly predict accurate protonation states of protein residues. As a result, his method only takes a few minutes to model a protein with several hundred amino acid residues, compared to hours or days for similar methods implemented in other modeling programs. He developed this unique approach for the protonation of molecules with multiple titration sites by iterative mobile clustering (IMC), in a collaboration with Dr. Don Bashford of the Scripps Research Institute and St. Jude Hospital. This method has provided the foundation for several important recent developments, including modeling pH-dependent mutation energies for protein binding affinity and stability and predicting correct charge models for protein aggregation and viscosity. These functionalities have directly impacted the biopharmaceutical industry as the number of protein-based therapies being developed has increased over the last decade.
Considering the dramatic impact that his work has had in both industry and academia, Dr. Spassov has always made the validation of his methods a top priority. His methods are all supported by peer-reviewed papers and large validation studies. For example, another independent review recently found Dr. Spassov’s methods to be the most accurate by evaluating multiple methods for predicting the changes in antibody and antigen binding affinity based upon mutations in the antibody sequence.
Since the very beginning of his tenure at BIOVIA, Dr. Spassov has shown himself to be a thoroughly innovative and hardworking scientist. His consistent and exceptional contributions, his cutting-edge science have made invaluable contributions to our Discovery Studio capabilities and to our customers, and made him the clear winner of the 2016 Most Valuable Player Award.