While it takes many years and millions of dollars to bring a drug from discovery to clinical trials to pharmacy shelves, VR is beginning to help Nimbus reduce those initial timelines and some of the associated costs. Recently while evaluating the AMPKβ2 enzyme — a node that’s considered a therapeutic target in metabolic diseases — Whitehead and team thought they’d determined the best strategy for drug selectivity within AMPKβ2’s large macromolecular structure. However, once he put on his Oculus Quest headset and looked at a simulation of the protein moving in Nanome, he realized that strategy needed to be changed and another synthetic vector was more promising.
“Being able to inspect these structures inside VR gives us the opportunity to ask other questions, propose additional experimentation, and test our ideas to move the science forward,” he says. Given that his team is trying to shorten the 12-18 month “lead optimization” cycle to get to a clinical candidate as fast as possible, Nanome and Oculus represent a significant advantage. “In the AMPKβ2 example, we were able to make our compounds more active on the target. These kinds of decisions can save tens of thousands of dollars a year.”