December 20, 2002
Gene Chips Will Accelerate Drug Development

By watching the effects that experimental drugs have on gene expression gene chips allow drugs which cause dangerous side effects to be identified at an earlier stage and at lower cost.

How is Merck using these things? Rosetta President Stephen Friend, who is now an executive vice president at Merck's labs, laid the groundwork. Friend used DNA chips to examine several potential medicines, some of which Merck had axed because animal studies showed risks of side effects. The DNA chips, in combination with Rosetta's software, flagged the duds from the drugs as well as the animal studies, but more quickly and cheaply. This means that medicines that are likely to fail will be less likely to make it into clinical trials.

Kim sees another opportunity down the road. DNA chips can be used to find genetic differences between people who respond to a drug and those who do not, starting in Phase II, or mid-stage, clinical trials. Since many drugs only seem to work for certain people, this would mean companies to target medicines to patients who would be helped--making clinical trials cheaper and easier.

Another way that gene chips (aka DNA chips or gene microarrays) will accelerate drug development is by finding genes and gene products to target for drug development.

Microarray technologies, or DNA chips, provide a high-density, high-throughput platform for measuring and analyzing the expression patterns of thousand of genes in parallel. Comparing expression levels of healthy and diseased tissues will reveal genes with a role in a disease process that can help researchers further accelerate discovery and validation of gene targets.

While gene chips and bioinformatics will accelerate drug development we are approaching the age in which drugs will not be the most important form of medical treatment. The biggest benefits for health and longevity will come from cell therapy and gene therapy. Cell therapy will be a far more powerful therapy because it will allow the replacement of aged, damaged, and dead cells. Gene therapy will be more powerful because the added genes will effectively program cells to become healthy again and even to replicate and again replace other cells that have died. Neither of these therapies are what we've traditionally called drugs. Still, gene chips will also accelerate the development of cell therapies and gene therapies as well.

Update: Here's a nice collection of microarray gene chip links.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2002 December 20 02:05 AM  Biotech Advance Rates

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