New micro-device could change drug testing

March 20, 2012

( -- Texas Tech University scientists have filed for a patent on a new device that could make some drug testing faster and less expensive.

Siva Vanapalli, an assistant professor in Texas Tech’s Department of Chemical Engineering, and his team created a simple microfluidic device about the size of a penny that could replace the current drug screening systems. Vanapalli’s work was recently featured in the journal .

“To develop a drug one must develop not only the drug compound, but also determine how much of the drug to give for it to be effective,” said Vanapalli.

Vanapalli is currently working with anti-bacterial chemicals, but hopes the process can be refined to aid in screening for new anti-cancer drugs.

The pharmaceutical industry screens hundreds of thousands of drug candidates each year using large robots that deliver one specific concentration of the drug at a time, a time-consuming process that requires large amounts of the compound and reagents.

“Our chip changes the process in two ways,” said Vanapalli. “We can do multiple concentrations of the drug at one time. That means we can use a sample maybe 1,000 times smaller than the amount currently used and we can do the same work in a much shorter time period. In short, making the drug screening process faster and more inexpensive for the pharmaceutical company and hopefully reducing the ultimate cost to the consumer.”

Vanapalli’s lab has demonstrated testing 60 different concentrations of a drug in about 10 minutes and expects to be able to improve on those numbers in future devices.

The new device looks like a computer chip with multiple microchannels and nanoliter-wells to hold an array of droplets of a substance. A scientist can vary the presence of other materials from drop-to-drop, thus testing multiple concentrations of the drug at the same time.

The use the microfluidic droplet arrays for was actually an accident. “We were working on a different type of experiment, but the outcome led us down this path,” said Vanapalli. “It is incidents like this that make science exciting.”

Vanapalli’s research is supported in part by the National Science Foundation and the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

Explore further: Faster and more sensitive electronics thanks to compact cooling

Related Stories

Attacking cancer cells with nanoparticles

October 25, 2011

( -- About every three days, Colleen Alexander, a chemistry graduate student, feeds cells that cause a deadly type of brain cancer. It’s a ritual that involves assessing the health of the cells under a microscope, ...

Recommended for you

Moonlighting molecules: Finding new uses for old enzymes

November 27, 2015

A collaboration between the University of Cambridge and MedImmune, the global biologics research and development arm of AstraZeneca, has led researchers to identify a potentially significant new application for a well-known ...

Atom-sized craters make a catalyst much more active

November 24, 2015

Bombarding and stretching an important industrial catalyst opens up tiny holes on its surface where atoms can attach and react, greatly increasing its activity as a promoter of chemical reactions, according to a study by ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.