Emerging Company Profile BioNumerik: Super simulations

Frederick Hausheer has been thinking about how to use supercomputers to design drugs since 1986, when he first used a Cray computer while at the National Cancer Institute and Johns Hopkins, and saw the potential of computer simulation to develop drugs.

He reasoned that drug development is a numbers game. In cancer, for example, Hausheer estimates that if 1 in 10,000 molecules makes it into the clinic, and 1 in 40,000 shows a 20 percent response rate, it would take a century to find the 1 in a million that constitutes a cure.

'A different approach'

Most companies play that numbers game by generating large numbers of molecules via traditional or automated screening methods. The problem, Hausheer says, is the resulting drugs can have major toxicities. "Shoe polish and jet fuel will kill cells," he said. "We need to address the problems of toxicity up front, and the only way to do that is to use a different approach."