New stem cell array technology capable of revolutionizing drug discovery

Image courtesy Flickr user psyberartist

Still very much an emerging field of science, stem cell research has traditionally been thought of as an effective method to create replacement cells and tissues for diseased components in the human body. Yet a new purpose for stem cells has emerged that has the capability to change the process of drug discovery and clinical trials.

Propelled by her son’s struggle with Type 1 diabetes and the loss of her parents to heart disease and cancer, social entrepreneur Susan Solomon founded the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) in 2005. Earlier this year at TEDGlobal2012, Solomon revealed new technology to enable the production of genetically diverse arrays of stem cells for the advancement of drug discovery.

The NYSCF Global Stem Cell Array uses robot technology to produce thousands of stem cell lines representing all global genetic subtypes. The technology will allow clinical researchers and pharmaceutical drug developers to test human cells for efficacy and side effects – a far more relevant approach than traditional testing on animal organisms, tissues and cells.

Solomon predicts the method will revolutionize personalized health and lead to safer, more rapid and effective drug discovery, combined with significant reductions in cost. According to Solomon, the average prescription drug spends 13 years in trial and development at a cost of $4 billion.

By enabling scientists to analyze the specific cellular changes and effects clinical research drugs have on various genetic subtypes, drugs can be prescribed on a case-by-case basis after chemical composition is determined compatible with a patient’s individual genomic factors.

To view Solomon’s TED presentation, click here.