"Partnerships are recognized as a critical success factor for small businesses commercializing technology," says Ruth Shuman, the NSF program director who oversees the NSF TECP effort. "However, potential partners frequently demand technical specifications and require proof-of-concept data as a prerequisite for partnership, requirements that are beyond the scope of small businesses' initial objectives. This supplemental funding enables small businesses to conduct additional research to meet the requirements of a corporate partner, potentially leading to commercial products and services, and a successful partnership."
The Parabon and Janssen researchers intend for their new prostate cancer drug to overcome several existing cancer-treatment obstacles. The drug design combines a toxin with a chemical that makes cancer cells susceptible to that toxin. Additionally, the drug incorporates components that improve delivery to cancer cells while avoiding healthy tissue, and chemical markers that allow researchers to monitor the drug's arrival at tumors. For the new compound, total design time plus synthesis time will be a matter of weeks.
"Currently, most drugs are developed using a screening technique where you try a lot of candidate compounds against targets to 'see what sticks'," says Armentrout. "Instead, we're designing very specific drugs based on their molecular structure, with target molecules that bind to receptors on specific types of cancer cells. In plug-and-play fashion, we can swap in or swap out any of the functional components, as needed, for a range of treatment approaches."
Concurrently, Parabon is developing other applications for the technology, including synthetic vaccines for biodefense and gene therapies that can target disease, based on information from an individual's genome. The
|Contact: Joshua A. Chamot|
National Science Foundation