An Owen County scientist and his daughter have developed a process designed to better test a drug's possible dangerous interactions in its early stages.
They recently launched a company based on this process, which has been positively reviewed by the National Institutes of Health. New Liberty Proteomics
aims to more thoroughly evaluate drugs before they get to the animal or human testing stages. Ray Perkins believes the new process could fundamentally change drug testing, lowering costs and cutting down on potentially dangerous interaction in the process. It could also more quickly show if a drug is actually viable as-is, says Perkins, company co-founder and physical chemist.
Perkins operates New Liberty Proteomics with his daughter Sarah-Ellen Leonard, a biochemist. They partner with Prof. Paul Kenis, chairman of the department of biomolecular engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign.
“If you look at the drug development process today, there is huge gap between the original design and what a drug faces when you put it in a human being. We are designed to fill that gap,” Perkins says. “We look at how the drug might interact with a huge number of proteins instead of one or two; we look at how it interacts with DNA. We look at these (interactions) collectively, which can address questions of what a drug may be doing when it's delivered that might make it deadly.”
The company does not plan to develop its own drugs, but to work as a partner with other companies.
“We don't want a interest in the drug. We want to be an objective and fair broker,” Perkins says.
Perkins says the testing techniques were developed privately over at least a decade, with his daughter. In an unusual setup, the company's startup was funded privately, mainly with investment from local residents who are excited about its potential to create jobs in Owen County.
At the company's beginnings in 2008, he began talking about it at local civic groups. He caught people's attention.
“Most of the money we have raised is from the residents of Owen County, folks that work for the postal service, insurance agents, teachers, real people,” he says. “They own a piece of the company.”
New Liberty is in its early stages and has not yet partnered with any companies to test drugs, but says several companies have expressed interest.
By Feoshia Henderson
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