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A new drug identification method may help develop drugs quicker and cheaper

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Posted February 28, 2017

If you are interested in science, you are probably reading about the development of new therapies and drugs all the time. You probably have noticed that while so called “breakthroughs” are reached very often, these drugs take a long time to reach the patients. Now, however, a new way for pharmaceutical industry to identify and test new drugs has been developed.

Conventional methods waste lots of time, because scientists cannot easily say which drugs do not hold any promise before they put them through extensive testing. Image credit: Stanislav.nevyhosteny via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0

Even in technology.org news about new drugs are regular. There is no denying that medicine science is moving forward in huge leaps, but complex testing processes make drugs very expensive and drag their introduction into the market. This new approach, developed by chemists from the University of Waterloo, SCIEX and Pfizer, employs differential mobility spectrometry to speed up the process and reduce the cost. The differential mobility spectrometry analyses drug molecules based on their response to an electrical field and the condensation-evaporation cycles the drug experiences in that field, using minute samples.

This will speed up the process even before the testing begins, because thousands of drugs can be tested quickly, increasing the rate of drug discovery. Usually people imagine that various substances are simply put through testing with animal models and later with people, but the actual process is much more difficult. Every new drug has to be put through a battery of tests to measure their chemical and physical properties. These tests are supposed to help predicting, how these drugs will act in human body, how they will cross cell membranes, what negative side effects they may have and so on. Furthermore, most of the drugs fail these tests immediately, which means that time is lost with substances that had little promise to begin with.

Usually these tests include cell cultures that are difficult and time consuming to grow. However, differential mobility spectrometry can help measuring all the main necessary properties extremely quickly and extremely cheaply. This method is very efficient and very accurate – it can determine between the same drug molecules with slightly different atomic structures. Scott Hopkins, corresponding author on the paper, said: “With this technology, the initial stages of drug development testing can be completed in hours rather than days. It’s not only several orders of magnitude faster, it gives us information we never had access to before that we can use for rational drug design”.

This approach may revolutionize how drugs are developed. Some of them may start coming our quicker and appear on the shelves with smaller price tags.

Source: uwaterloo.ca

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