The same technology that’s revolutionizing video games is being used to develop new drugs and fight some of the world’s deadliest diseases.
Chemists at C4X Discovery are using the virtual reality technology behind popular game Fortnite to visualize the structure of complex molecules. The tool, called 4Sight, has already been used to create a drug that is now in development to treat addiction.
Biochemists are also using the technology to develop drugs to tackle other diseases, such as cancer and Parkinson’s.
Scientists traditionally used physical models to visualize drugs. But 4Sight allows drug developers to grab hold of virtual molecules and see how they move and respond to stimuli.
The key to drug design is finding the right shape for the molecule to fit inside the targeted protein pocket. If you get the wrong shape, the molecule could fail to attach or even lodge in a different pocket, causing side effects.
“Moving molecules around that are very complicated is so much easier by grabbing them than by trying to use a mouse on a keyboard,” says Craig Fox, chief scientific officer at C4X Discovery.
The company claims that the technology could help to reduce the margin of error during the drug discovery process and enable scientists in different locations to work on drug models in the same virtual room.
“It takes about 10 to 12 years to take a drug from the concept to the market,” says Fox. “It’s often described as trying to find a needle in a haystack.”
It’s also exceedingly expensive. It costs $2.6 billion on average to develop a new prescription medicine that gains market approval, according to the Tufts Center for Study of Drug Development.