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Wake Forest, NanoMedica Share Grants for Sequencing-based Drug Discovery Technology

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Wake Forest University and spin-out company NanoMedica have received $860,000 in funding to move a bead-based genetic sequencing drug discovery technology closer to commercialization, Wake Forest said today.

The funding includes a $700,000 Small Business Innovation Research award from the National Institutes of Health and a $160,000 grant from the North Carolina Biotechnology Center.

The investigators, which includes WFU faculty members who also lead the team at Winston-Salem-based NanoMedica, will use the grants to continue to develop their Next-Gen Lab-on-Bead technology.

The tool will enable pharmaceutical firms to search for new drugs by testing millions of possible drug targets at the same time on a one-square-inch chip, the partners said.

"Each chip contains millions of potential drug candidates," WFU Associate Professor Martin Guthold, a co-inventor of the technology, said in a statement. "We know the position and identity of each, because we can associate a potential drug molecule with the sequence in each well."

He added, "It miniaturizes and massively parallelizes sequencing on beads in little wells, so we can do millions of sequencing actions in unison to find potential drug candidates to treat a specific disease."

Drug developers would supply the targets, such as proteins associated with cancers, and researchers would then combine the fluorescently-labeled proteins with a neutral solution and flow it over the chip. If a protein target binds to a bead in a well, that means the drug candidate is a potential treatment for the disease, WFU said.

Though the technology has been developed initially as a drug discovery tool, the research team at Wake Forest and NanoMedica also believe it could be used in diagnostic applications.

"If you want to see if a biopsy is cancerous, you could use diagnostic molecules that were discovered with this technology. If a biopsy sample binds to certain diagnostic molecules, then it's cancerous," Guthold explained.