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San Antonio Researchers Speeding Up Search For New Drugs

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Southwest Research Institute
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A new software program called Rhodium created at Southwest Research Institute is designed to speed up the drug discovery process. This is a three dimensional model of a molecule.

Finding new drug treatments is a time-consuming, costly process. Researchers in San Antonio have developed new software to make the process faster and cheaper.

Sifting through chemical compounds to find out what might work as a new drug treatment is a huge challenge. That’s why it takes, on average, 15 years and billions of dollars to get a new treatment on the market.

  

  

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Credit Southwest Research Institute
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Southwest Research Institute
Jonathon Bohmann, Ph.D., explains how the software called Rhodium helps to search through millions of chemical compounds to help discover new drug therapies.

  

San Antonio’s Southwest Research Institute is building a better mousetrap in the form of new software called Rhodium. Rhodium speeds up drug discovery by harnessing the power of cell phone processing technology. The same massive data capability that allows you to use your phone while driving past cell towers, allows supercomputers to process great quantities of data all at once.

In other words, the technology invented for mobile communication is now being used for bioscience research.

"This is technology that you support every time you pay your cell phone bill," explains chemist Jonathan Bohmann, Ph.D. "It’s ubiquitous now. And it’s very inexpensive. And it’s very good at solving these drug discovery kinds of problems."

The software creates three dimensional models of molecules in the body that are drug targets.  The computer compares chemical compounds to the model.

It’s kind of like looking for a key to fit into a lock. If the the combination of compounds works to block the disease process, scientists also check to make sure that combination doesn’t unlock unwanted targets, creating side effects.

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Credit Southwest Research Institute
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Southwest Research Institute
Jonathan Bohmann, Ph.D., is a Principal Scientist in Medicinal and Process Chemistry for Southwest Research Institute.

  

News-making viruses are some of the first projects. "We have done work on Ebola,"Bohmann said. "We have very promising preliminary results from a screen of several hundred thousand compounds."

The technology will be used to find new treatments for viruses, resistant bacteria, and conditions like Alzheimer’s.