Wake Forest using “lab-on-bead” to seek cancer-fighting drugs

October 30, 2008: Wake Forest University scientists are developing a process by which nanotechnology could dramatically speed the search for new cancer-fighting drugs.

Work on the “lab-on-bead” process is partly funded by a $75,000 grant from the NC Biotechnology Center and is being conducted in partnership with the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada and other research universities.

The process involves using tiny plastic beads, each just 1/1000th the width of a human hair, to gauge the interaction of chemicals on cancer cells. Each bead will carry a separate chemical, and researchers will be able to identify those that display cancer-fighting properties. The process should allow researchers to screen more than a billion possible drug candidates per day, rather than the several hundred thousand per day possible using current technology.

The research is being conducted in Wake Forests Physics department, with assistance from the school’s Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials.

Wake Forest said a biotech company NanoMedica has shown interest in commercializing the lab-on-bead process. That company has used a nanotech-based drug discovery platform to develop a breast cancer therapeutic.

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