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Quantum leap ahead
STATE COLLEGE, Pa.—QuantumBio Inc. recently netted a FastTrack Small Business Innovation Research Grant (SBIR) of more than $865,000 from the NIH for research and development of novel, quantum mechanics-based methodologies for protein/drug scoring and interaction decomposition to help better understand protein-drug interactions.
These methods are expected to lead to next-generation molecular modeling tools that will aid pharma companies in developing more potent, less expensive drugs and drug-like compounds.
"We're trying to throw approximation out and get down to what's really going on chemically so that drug discovery and development can be faster, cheaper and better," says Dr. Lance M. Westerhoff, QuantumBio's general manager. "But more than just telling you which candidates are good leads and which are bad, the methodology should give better insight into understanding why."
The project actually stems from a Phase I SBIR project that began in fall 2007, in which QuantumBio entered into a joint research and development collaboration with Williamsport, Pa.-based Discovery Machine Inc. (DMI), which creates workflow capture and cognitive modeling systems.
"Discovery Machine has both the technology and methodology to capture the expertise of key individuals—scientists, researchers, etc.—and getting that knowledge encoded into a graphical running model," explains Dr. Todd Griffith, president of DMI.
A mutual investor in both QuantumBio and DMI—Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Pennsylvania—introduced the two companies and suggested they might work well together. Griffith says the two companies had been talking for a few years but just didn't have anything much, in terms of mutual opportunities until this SBIR grant came along.
By using its knowledge capture technology to create a sort of artificial intelligence system, Griffith says DMI is helping QuantumBio—and down the line, drug companies interested in using quantum mechanics—gain access to the quantum computational chemistry expertise they need to do the work, but which may all not reside within the head of the computational chemist doing that work.