3-D Printer Makes Drugs with Drag-and-Drop DNA

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By George Dvorsk, iO9

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.

“What

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.

DNews Nugget: Cloning Dinos From DNA Is Impossible

The

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.

To

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

development industry.

ANALYSIS: Text Book Encoded in DNA

And

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

screening.

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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