JUN 13, 2018 06:19 AM PDT

Virtual Reality and Drug Discovery

WRITTEN BY: Nouran Amin

A drug discovery company known as C4X Discovery (C4XD) has developed its very own virtual reality (VR) tool known as 4Sight, which helps chemist visualize the molecular structure of complex chemical compounds in order for them to develop new drugs for various conditions and chronic addictions.

Scientists currently at C4XD are utilizing the VR technology to produce new drugs that can treat respiratory conditions and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and dementia. Now, over the past six months, chemists at the company have begun using 4Sight in drug discovery and development.

“Starting to use VR was quite transformative, because all of a sudden the molecules become part of my world and I can manipulate them in space just ahead of me, like you would do comparing two oranges and two apples,” says Thorsten Nowak, medicinal chemist at C4XD. With the VR platform, drug discovery “became as visual as it can really ever be”.

Nowak explains that chemists are visually-oriented people and so their imaginative work as scientists is limited when not having the ability to visualize molecules in detail. In fact, before many chemical software programs, scientists in the past would use psychical molecular models known as the plastic ‘ball-and-stick’ to help them visualize the representation of drugs. However, with the new technology, chemists can see the molecule right before their eyes as well as the detail of shapes these molecular structures exhibit. This proved that visual imagination is necessary for successful drug development.

“If you're watching television you can see all the action, but you're never really part of it,” Nowak says. “[Using VR], molecules almost become part of your world. So it is as if you were participating directly. You can manipulate them as if they are objects that are part of your environment.”

The team behind 4Sight are also in the process of creating what is known as ‘molecular sonification’ which is potential technology that can add sound (a collection of pops and clicks) to the process of molecular modeling to help ‘gamify’ the intricate process of drug discovery and development to move on further.

Source: C4X Discovery

About the Author
  • Nouran enjoys writing on various topics including science & medicine, global health, and conservation biology. She hopes through her writing she can make science more engaging and communicable to the general public.
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