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Toxicology-on-a-chip tool readies for market

Recalls of popular prescription drugs are raising public concern about the general safety of new pharmaceuticals. A collaborative group of researchers says that identifying which drug candidates are toxic early in the discovery process can help prevent harmful pharmaceuticals from being placed on the market in the first place, and they have developed a tool to do it.

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, University of California-Berkeley, and Solidus Biosciences Inc. have developed a biochip, called the MetaChip, which can analyze drug candidates for toxicity and eliminate harmful ones before they advance to pre-clinical stages. Now beginning the second phase of funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-supported project, researchers are working to optimize the technology for the end user: pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. The researchers are working to bring the MetaChip to market within a year.

"Compounds can be screened early, quickly, and effectively by the MetaChip to prevent toxic drugs from getting through the discovery process, being put on the market, and then getting recalled, such as we've seen with several high-profile cases recently," says Jonathan Dordick, the Howard P. Isermann '42 Professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Rensselaer.

"Weeding out toxic compounds earlier would also allow pharmaceutical companies to evaluate more compounds and more efficiently identify those that are most likely to become successful drugs," adds Douglas Clark of the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of California-Berkeley.

Dordick and Clark are also the co-founders of Solidus Biosciences, a biotech company located at the Rensselaer Incubator for start-up businesses.

The MetaChip (metabolizing enzyme toxicology assay chip) mimics the effects of metabolism in the human liver where enzymes break down, neutralize, and excrete chemicals from food and pharmaceuticals. In many
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Contact: Tiffany Lohwater
lohwat@rpi.edu
518-276-6542
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
12-Dec-2005


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