The Drug Discovery Road Map

Drug discovery constitutes a multi-billion dollar industry, with chemists playing a vital role in various points on the drug discovery roadmap. They carry out novel research from the early-state development to the scaling-up procedure to guarantee the production of the most ideal drug candidate in a most efficient, rapid, and eco-friendly manner.

Using NMR for Characterization of Reaction Products

In the drug discovery process, various analytical methods such as nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy have a significant part, and chemists employ such tools every day for the characterization of reaction products in every stage of the process. Following completion of a chemist’s reaction and isolation of the desired product, an NMR spectrum of the isolate is obtained. Then, the spectrum is interpreted by the chemist by assigning the peaks in the spectrum to the distinctive sets of protons (1H), or other atoms (13C, 31P, 19F, 11B, etc.), in their desired molecule, thus enabling them to verify whether they have achieved the aim of starting the reaction.

Downsides of NMR Analysis

The desire of characterizing molecules using NMR in the drug discovery process comes with the potentially huge cost of acquiring a high-field instrument and also the high maintenance costs associated with it. Various smaller institutions and organizations cannot afford these costs and manage by sub-contracting out the NMR process, which involves renting/purchasing NMR time by the institution or researcher from a nearby facility equipped with a high-field instrument. As an alternative, they package up and mail out their compounds for NMR analysis. Apart from being still comparatively expensive with respect to dollars spent per spectrum, these techniques also result in major delays in research. Certain contract labs need up to a week’s time or even two weeks to return data to the requesting chemist.

The laboratory of Professor Praveen Nekkar Rao in the University of Waterloo–School of Pharmacy came across one such scenario. The ongoing research projects of Professor Rao involve the development of multifunctional ligands for treating Alzheimer’s disease.

University of Waterloo

As part of the everyday research operations, his team produces various organic molecules and has to be in a position to confirm that the desired molecule has been synthesized before advancing onto the subsequent step in their production. For Professor Rao and his colleagues, the most nearest NMR spectrometer is available at the main campus of the University of Waterloo in the Chemistry Department, nearly a 20 minute drive away. The choice would be to either book time on one of the available spectrometers and spend precious research time shuttling to and fro to gather their data, or submit the samples for analysis, which could take two to five days to complete. Apart from the time taken, the cost per sample of $25+ is also very high.

Professor Rao

Applying Nanalysis Benchtop NMR Spectrometer to NMR Analysis

In 2015, this scenario changed for Professor Rao and his colleagues upon purchasing a Nanalysis NMReady-60PRO benchtop NMR spectrometer for the research laboratory. Instantaneously, the team started to observe the advantages as it enabled various regular NMR analyses to be rapidly performed and to move onto the subsequent production steps in a rapid manner.

The NMReady-60PRO has been a game changer for us. It is extremely easy to use, fits perfectly in our lab due to its compact size, and we can acquire an NMR spectrum very quickly. We now acquire NMR data routinely in the lab and increase our research efficiency. We can even spot check a reaction quickly when we would like! The ultimate goal was to save time and money and the NMReady-60PRO has exceeded our expectations in achieving both.

Professor Rao, School of Pharmacy, University of Waterloo

In Professor Rao’s lab, graduate student Amy Pham has been developing small molecule libraries as chemical tools for the analysis of the aggregation of amyloid proteins Aβ and tau, which have a role in the pathophysiology of Alzheimer’s disease. The figure below illustrates a sample proton NMR spectra acquired by Amy within a few seconds with the help of the NMReady-60PRO.


As shown in this article, NMReady spectrometers provide a number of analytical solutions to difficulties that are currently posed by larger high-field instruments. Nanalysis NMReady spectrometers prove to be excellent complements to prevalent high-throughput/high-efficiency chemistry practices such as characterization, QA/QC, and reaction monitoring.

About Nanalysis Corp.

Nanalysis was established in 2009. The company develops and manufactures portable Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometers for the laboratory instrumentation market.

In the fall of 2012, the first product was launched: NMReady™, the first fully featured portable NMR spectrometer in a single compact enclosure requiring no liquid helium or any other cryogens.

The NMReady is used by chemical professionals in all types of industries (oil & gas, chemical, pharma, biotech, food processing) as well as government and university labs.

The NMReady enables all chemical trainees to gain first-hand knowledge of NMR as the premier spectroscopic method by using it in a variety of training environments.

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Last updated: Feb 4, 2021 at 6:41 AM


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