It seems that Parabon NanoLabs may have opened up a new front in the ongoing war against the terrible disease known as glioblastoma multiforme – aka. Brain Cancer. And the culprit in this new offensive is 3D printing technology, which is being used to print a new brand of medication, molecule for molecule, using a DNA self-assembly technique. But what is even more impressive is the fact that the DNA itself was custom designed with a drag-and-drop computer program.
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 with nanoscale fabrication technology. In an official release made by the National Science Foundation, lead investigator Steven Armentrout stated: “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.”
In essence, this breakthrough will not only drastically reduce the time it takes to both create and test medications, it will also open the door to completely new drug designs. The computer software used allowed the scientists to design molecular pieces with specific, functional components, and to optimize their designs using a cloud supercomputing platform called the Parabon Computation Grid that searches for sets of DNA sequences.
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 in some cases, days — the developers were able to produce their drugs. The technique is considerably faster than traditional drug discovery techniques, many of which simply utilize trial-and-error screening.
As for what lies ahead, Parabon is hoping to use the same technique to develop synthetic vaccines and gene therapies that can target a person’s genetic diseases. In addition, the technology could be used beyond the field of medicine, embracing nanotechnology, biotechnology and even computing. As always, exciting developments in one field are likely to trigger movements in others.