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Researchers use 3D printing and self-assembling DNA to revolutionize drug development

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DNA strand
DNA strand

Researchers at Parabon NanoLabs have created a new way to develop and test medications that's more accurate and even faster than traditional drug development methods that rely on trial and error. The company first tested their new Parabon Essemblix Drug Development Platform on medicine to fight glioblastoma multiforme, a form of brain cancer. Using computer-aided design (CAD) software called inSēquio, scientists used a simple "drag-and-drop" interface to design a drug out of different molecules that can work together to find, latch onto, and attack cancer cells.

"In plug-and-play fashion, we can swap in or swap out any of the functional components."

After selecting the drug's features, researchers used a supercomputing platform that finds DNA sequences capable of self-assembling the necessary components. Then, with the help of nanoscale fabrication technology, scientists created trillions of copies of the molecules — a process that can allow them to design and produce drugs in just weeks or even days. Parabon senior research scientist Hong Zhong describes the development as "a deliberate and methodical engineering process, which is quite different from most other drug development approaches in use today."

In addition to developing tailored medications to combat prostate cancer and other diseases, Parabon is working to apply this technology to synthetic vaccines for biodefense and to target diseases based on gene information. The company also believes its work has applications outside of medicine, and plans to create nanoscale logic gates and molecular nanosensors using these methods.