Combining various steps on a chip could facilitate and accelerate the process of developing new promising drug compounds, apart from decreasing the costs significantly, according to the scientists of Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) who published their results in Nature Communications.
The search for new active substances, their production, characterization, and screening for biological effectiveness are very complex and costly. One of the reasons is that all three steps have been carried out separately so far.
Drug development is based on high-throughput screening of large compound libraries. However, the lack of miniaturized and parallelized methodologies for high-throughput chemical synthesis in the liquid phase and incompatibility of synthesis of bioactive compounds and screening for their biological effect have led to a strict separation of these steps so far. This makes the process expensive and inefficient. "For this reason, we have developed a platform that combines synthesis of compound libraries with biological high-throughput screening on a single chip," says Maximilian Benz of KIT's Institute of Toxicology and Genetics (ITG).
Recently, the chemBIOS technology was nominated for one of the first three places of KIT's NEULAND Innovation Prize 2019 by a jury of representatives of research and industry.
Drug Development: Big Effort and Few Hits
Due to the immense time expenditure and spatial and methodological separation of the synthesis of compounds, screening, and clinical studies, development of new drugs often takes more than 20 years and costs between two and four billion dollars.
The early phase of drug development is traditionally based on three areas of science: chemists synthesize a big library of various molecules. All compounds are produced, isolated, and characterized separately.
Then, biologists analyze the molecule library for biological activity. Highly active compounds, so-called hits, are returned to chemistry. Based on this pre-selection, chemists synthesize further variations of these compounds. These secondary molecule libraries then contain optimized compounds. After this cycle has been repeated several times, a few promising compound candidates are transferred to the medical part of drug development, in which these compounds are tested in clinical studies. Of several then thousands of compounds subjected to first screenings, only one or sometimes no compound reaches the last step of drug development: approval of the new drug.
This process is time-consuming and requires a large range of ma-terials and solvents. This makes development more expensive and slower and also limits the number of substances screened to a fea-sible number.