New Tool Could Tailor Drugs to People

New Tool Could Tailor Drugs to People

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Ed Yeates ReportingA 40-thousand dollar cash prize for some University of Utah students could turn into millions. They've developed a hand-held device, which could revolutionize the way pharmaceutical companies target new drugs for specific diseases.

In Star Trek Bones or other docs would wave a fictitious device over patients to find out what's ailing them and how to treat it. This little guy won't do exactly that, but might now give pharmaceutical companies a revolutionary tool to tailor-make treatments for specific people.

Through tiny tubes the size of a human hair, sample solutions deposit proteins on a microscopic plate in HUGE numbers, something scientists have never been able to do before.

Josh Eckman, Co-founder, Wasatch Microfluidics: “The exact number is an 86 fold increase. It’s almost a hundred times better than current technologies.”

The old expensive way identifies very few proteins. But with the new device a massive number clumped together all at once, ready to be exposed to an experimental drug.

For less money researchers can quickly identify proteins which mark a disease a patient has now and how those proteins react to specific drugs. And that's not all.

Down the road a physician might be able to use this device as a diagnostic tool, telling him, for example, which patient would do well on a particular drug.

Josh Eckman: “In the doctor’s office at the point of care, you could have a diagnostic tool which would test your blood sample against current drugs that are on the market to see which drug would fit you best.”

Imagine, for example, an effective treatment for arthritis, that based on a test of your own body's proteins will not produce any side-effects specifically for you. The student team behind this little invention won the David Eccles 2005 Entrepreneur Award. But 40 thousand dollars is only the beginning. Their spin-off company could make $30 million within five years. And that's for only ONE application.

Over 500- university and college teams from around the state competed for the Eccles Award. Only 10 teams made it to the final round.

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