University of Maryland Researchers to Develop Devices to Revolutionize Drug Research

September 18, 2007

Applied Clinical Trials

University of Maryland Researchers to Develop Devices to Revolutionize Drug Research

COLLEGE PARK, MD, September 18, 2007-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 and materials science and engineering departments, 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 adevice 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.

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