Lab-on-Bead Offers Potential to Quickly Develop New Treatment for Mesothelioma
by Nancy Meredith
Researchers at Wake Forest University have developed a revolutionary new technology that will screen millions of chemicals simultaneously zeroing in on the few that could ultimately become a viable treatment for a specific disease. This process can speed up drug development by as much as 10,000 times and cut out years of testing and re-testing in the laboratory. This technology can be especially beneficial to orphan diseases such as mesothelioma.
In the United States an “orphan disease” status is assigned to a disease or disorder if it affects fewer than 200,000 Americans at any given time. The Food and Drug Administration estimates that today there are over 6,000 rare diseases affecting more than 25 million people. Approximately 3,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed each year in the United States.
Mesothelioma is a serious cancer that occurs in individuals exposed to airborne asbestos fibers. Although there is no cure for mesothelioma, it can be treated with varying degrees of success through the use of surgical procedures, chemotherapy and radiation.
Many of the orphan diseases afflict so few people that researchers and pharmaceutical companies do not find it beneficial to expend the time, effort or money to find treatments and cures. Only one drug, Pemetrexed Disodium (Alimta), has been approved as an orphan drug in the treatment of pleural mesothelioma. However, Lab-on-Bead promises that the technology can reduce costs and speed development of new drugs and effective treatments for diseases ranging from HIV to cancer to Alzheimer’s.
The beads are actually nanoscopic in size and are loaded with the molecular makeup, or DNA “barcodes,” for all the drugs of a certain type. Eventually the bead-drug combination is added to a disease target on a slide. When a drug matches the target it “sticks” and is then identified by its barcode. This is then flagged as an effective treatment for the disease.
Wake Forest is partnering with NanoMedica, Inc., a biotechnology startup company, to test how drug companies will use the new tool. The company has relocated to Winston-Salem from New Jersey, and has one year to work with the technology to bring it to market or relinquish their rights to the patent.
Jed C. Macosko, an associate professor of physics and primary inventor of the Lab-on-Bead technology, says of the new development “if there’s some cure to a disease or a way to diagnose it, we’re going to find it faster.”
The findings will be published in the September/October issue of Journal of Molecular Recognition.