Researchers are hoping to use this technique to develop synthetic vaccines for biodefense and gene therapies that can target disease. Credit: Mike Agliolo/Corbis
The new technology, which was in part funded by the National Science
Foundation, is called the Parabon Essemblix
Drug Development Platform, and it combines computer-aided design (CAD)
software called inSequio
with nanoscale fabrication technology.
differentiates our nanotechnology from others is our ability to rapidly, and
precisely, specify the placement of every atom in a compound that we design,
” said lead investigator Steven Armentrout through the NSF’s official release.
inSequio software allowed the scientists to design molecular pieces with
specific, functional components. They then optimized their designs using a
cloud supercomputing platform called the Parabon Computation Grid that searches
for sets of DNA sequences that can self-assemble its new components.
design the compounds, the researchers applied their knowledge of the cell
receptors they were targeting or the biological pathways they were trying to
affect. And they did so by applying the principles of basic chemistry to
explore the space of all possible assemblies. Consequently, the process was
very deliberate and methodical, what the researchers say is unique in the drug
to hasten the drug production process, the researches took their new sequences
and chemically synthesized trillions of identical copies of the designed
molecules. So, in a matter of weeks — and sometimes days — the developers
produced their drugs. The technique is considerably faster than traditional
drug discovery techniques, many of which simply utilize trial-and-error
Looking forward, Parabon is hoping to
develop synthetic vaccines for biodefense and gene therapies that can target
disease (what will be based on information from an individual’s genome). And
interestingly, the technology may be usable outside of medicine; future applications
could also include the development of nanoscale logic gates, devices critical
for computing, and molecular nanosensors.
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