Killer drugs

Killer drugs

May 15, 2007
Drugs that attack the root cause of a disease, not just its symptoms, could revolutionize medicine. Donald Weaver and his team at Dalhousie University are manipulating molecules to build a new generation of designer drugs. And attacking Alzheimer’s disease is at the top of their list.

But finding the right molecules to turn into drugs is no easy task. “Every drug is a molecule, but not every molecule is a drug. CFI funds allowed us to invest in the specialized equipment we needed to avoid going down blind alleys,” Weaver says.

Using high-performance computers, Weaver’s team begins their assault by visualizing the structure of the Alzheimer’s disease molecule. Then they design drugs capable of interfering with the Alzheimer’s molecules that build up in the brain, causing brain damage and dementia. The availability of high-speed computers has allowed Weaver to speed up his research, and design new molecules more efficiently—resulting in faster research-to-market turnaround.

Weaver is also responsible for three life sciences start-up companies, and his work has led to 97 patent filings. One such company, Neurochem, already has an Alzheimer’s drug in clinical trials in Europe and the United States.

As Weaver and his team set their sights on other diseases in the coming years, new drugs could soon hit the market—saving millions of lives in the process.