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Billion compound cancer screen

Posted 23/01/2014 by sevans

High throughput screening techniques and automated robotics have accelerated dramatically the pace of modern drug discovery and development by rapidly identifying compounds of interest as leads among sometimes thousands of other potential candidates. This week sees the announcement of a new deal, involving The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), London, Cancer Research Technology (CRT) and Denmark-based drug discovery company Nuevolution, which promises to speed development of much sought-after cancer therapies, by employing an innovative new screening technology to assess up to a billion prototype drug molecules for anti-cancer activity. 

Nuevolution’s novel screening technology, Chemetics, will allow researchers to screen libraries of DNA-tagged compounds to identify those that act on a key protein in the stress response pathway, which has an important role in cancer cell survival and resistance to cancer treatments.

‘The stress response pathway is increasingly being seen as an exciting source of future drug targets. But for some of these targets it is technically very challenging to identify prototype small molecule drugs,’ according to  Paul Workman, deputy chief executive of the ICR and director of the Cancer Research UK Cancer Therapeutics Unit: ‘The collaboration will allow us to screen very rapidly and efficiently for compounds that are able to bind to a key component of the stress response pathway that we have identified as especially important, and could help us to identify new drug candidates far more quickly than would otherwise be the case.’

It will give scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) access to data from screens of Nuevolution’s proprietary library of small-molecule compounds, each of which is tagged with a unique strand of DNA – marking it like a barcode.

’Our role is to build global industry-academic partnerships to bring the best technologies and expertise together to develop new treatments for cancer patients – ultimately saving more lives from the disease,‘ noted Phil L’Huillier, Cancer Research Technology’s director of business management.

It is an admirable goal, and with more new and better high throughput screening technologies increasingly at the researchers’ disposal, one that would appear to be increasingly achievable.

Cath O’Driscoll - Deputy editor

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