In work supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Innovation Research grant, researchers from Parabon® NanoLabs of Reston, Va., recently developed and began evaluating a drug for combating the lethal brain cancer glioblastoma multiforme.
Now, with the support of an NSF Technology Enhancement for Commercial Partnerships (TECP) grant, Parabon has partnered with Janssen Research & Development, LLC, part of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, to use the technology to create and test the efficacy of a new prostate cancer drug.
"We can now 'print,' molecule by molecule, exactly the compound that we want," says Steven Armentrout, the principal investigator on the NSF grants and co-developer of Parabon's 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."
The new technology is called the Parabon Essemblix™ Drug Development Platform, and it combines their computer-aided design (CAD) software called inSçquio™ with nanoscale fabrication technology.
Scientists work within inSçquio™ to design molecular pieces with specific, functional components. The software then optimizes the design using the Parabon Computation Grid, a cloud supercomputing platform that uses proprietary algorithms to search for sets of DNA sequences that can self-assemble those components.
"When designing a therapeutic compound, we combine knowledge of the cell receptors we are targeting or biological pathways we are trying to affect with an understanding of the linking chemistry that defines what is possible to assemble," says Hong Zhong, senior research scientist at Parabon and a collaborator on the grants. "It's a deliberate and methodical engineering process, which is quite different from most other drug development approaches in use today."