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U. of Md. Researchers to Develop Devices to Revolutionize Drug Research
Date:9/18/2007

COLLEGE PARK, Md., Sept. 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --- A multi-disciplinary group of researchers from the University of Maryland, College Park, and the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute (UMBI) has won a competitive, $2 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to revolutionize the way researchers develop and test pharmaceutical drugs.

The group, led by William Bentley, Herbert Rabin Distinguished Professor and chair of the Fischell Department of Bioengineering at the University of Maryland's A. James Clark School of Engineering, plans to build devices that test new drugs using living, human biological components rather than "animal models," thus significantly improving the accuracy and speed of drug development.

Currently, the average drug takes about 10 years and $1 billion in research dollars to reach the market.

"The current testing system, involving mice and other animals, doesn't reflect the human body," Bentley said. "This leads to inaccurate results that require additional rounds of testing, dragging out the process for years."

Bentley and colleagues from UMBI, the Maryland NanoCenter, the Institute for Systems Research (ISR) and the Clark School's electrical and computer engineering department, are collaborating to build devices that will allow a drug researcher to input both a drug to be tested and specific human biological components, such as proteins or cells. Such a device makes multiple, simultaneous measurements of how those components respond to the drug, to determine whether the drug is successful. The device thus serves as a research environment that mimics the human body.

"It will be an adaptable, multi-purpose toolbox built using microfabrication techniques that are already the industry standard," Bentley said.

Because researchers will add the human biological components to the device after manufacture, the device can have a longer shelf-life, and the same device can be used for
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SOURCE A. James Clark School of Engineering
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