Quick Relief

by Deirdre Kelly

photography by chris robinson

A major grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada will boost early-stage drug development research at York University’s Faculty of Science, allowing for new pharmaceuticals to be brought to market faster than before. 

The $900,000 endowment will enable Department of Chemistry professors Ryan Hili, York Research Chair in Molecular Evolution, and Sergey Krylov, York Research Chair in Bioanalytical Chemistry, to advance their interdisciplinary research into new technologies, facilitating faster routes for chemical testing.  

Pre-clinical stages of drug development require many thousands of validated hits, chemical compounds which are confirmed to bind to a therapeutic target (usually a protein). The technologies in development at York will facilitate fast and reliable delivery of a large number of validated hits for later-stage testing. 

Developed in collaboration with pharmaceutical companies Alphora Research and GlaxoSmithKline Canada and the instrumentation development company SCIEX, the new technologies use algorithmization and robust control methods to support the automation of key processes in the early stages of drug development. 

“The more validated hits we have at the very beginning,” says Krylov, “the higher the chance the drug-development campaign will be successful.”

Commercialization through future licensing agreements is expected to provide the supporting companies and others with a faster entry point into the multi-phase drug-testing process.

“Automated identification of validated hits will save pharmaceutical companies time and money, leading to faster development of more affordable drugs,” Krylov says.  ■

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