Virtual reality (VR) is not a new technology. The term dates back to the 1980s, when researchers first developed technology and gear, and a few years later, young people like Nanome CEO and co-founder Steve McCloskey had a first taste of virtual reality. in the fun areas of amusement parks or playing video games at home.
It is advancing rapidly until 2021, where virtual reality and its applications have evolved far beyond entertainment. McCloskey spoke with Outsourcing-Pharma about how Nanome’s team works with researchers at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and other reputable institutions to leverage VR technology to analyze the COVID-19 virus, discover drugs, and more.
OSP: Could you talk a little bit about your relationship and experience with VR technology?
SM: In fact, I tried virtual reality in the 1990s at Six Flags in Los Angeles when he was little. Initially, while I was going through my nanoengineering curriculum at the University of California at San Diego, I thought there should be a better way to visualize molecular systems than traditional 2D representations (e.g., the structures of nanoengineering). Lewis points).
Growing up with video games, I thought that video game graphics engines could be reused for molecular visualizations. Around the same time, in 2014/15, just after Facebook acquired Oculus, that’s when it all clicked.
Keita, our chief operating officer and co-founder, came from a background in film / media and computer science. When he tested the Google Cardboard headphones in 2015, he clicked that it had to be the next computer interface and that there had to be better use cases than zombie shooters and roller coasters. We later met at a VR film festival at UC San Diego in 2015 and formed a company shortly thereafter.
OSP: Could you talk about how you realized the possibilities of using RV in molecular design (especially around drug discovery / development)?
SM: Going through startup accelerators and business incubators at UC San Diego, the founding team quickly realized a significant market potential within the life sciences. The founding team also discovered that drug discovery scientists have been trying to use 3D technologies to gain better insights into their molecular data since the 1980s, so virtual reality felt like the next natural step for to the discovery of drugs.
OSP: Could you provide a “brief” description of your technology and process?
SM: It is a platform for scientific collaboration that includes:
- virtual chemistry building kit on steroids that never runs out of parts
- scientists can apply very complex analysis and simulation algorithms
- while seeing virtual holographic companions, blackboards and screens around them.
OSP: You talked about your collaborations with Novartis and other major pharmacists. Could you talk about your collaborations and projects that you have addressed?
SM: In major pharmaceutical companies and government research labs, scientists use Nanome for everything from COVID19, cancer, diabetes to psychedelic research. This was especially important during the height of COVID19 blockages when scientists could not work side by side. Instead, the scientists met with their holographic colleagues in our virtual environment and collaborated closely as if they were side by side.
OSP: You mentioned that researchers who study the same structure over and over again in more conventional systems could more easily see a breakthrough when working with your technology on the same molecule. Could you talk about that “oh, wow” moment and how this technology does it?
SM: Seeing molecular systems through a monitor is like looking out a window. Scientists can get some ideas, but they miss the obvious nuances when they can easily manipulate molecules with their hands along the arm in full 3D. Gaining a complete understanding of molecular systems and their interactions is ultimately possible in VR, which is simply not possible in traditional monitors or inherited 3D glasses.
OSP: Could you talk about how Nanome technology helps accelerate the discovery of molecules and the ways in which this benefits researchers and sponsors?
SM: Because of the ideas that can only be obtained in virtual reality, scientists often realize that a path with which they would continue to use traditional monitors would not produce a successful outcome. Without these perspectives in VR, they would probably synthesize the molecule and have suboptimal in vitro results; in the worst case, they may even enter phase III clinical trials and then have suboptimal results.
The more scientists travel a path with a suboptimal compound, the more time and resources scientists cost. As a result, having the idea that a composite design may be suboptimal before, in VR, is invaluable for your research.
OSP: The story of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory using your technology in its SARS-CoV-2 work is wild. Could you share how you came to work with the team and how RV raised the chances of discovery and understanding?
SM: Interestingly, Nanome’s first client, Zoran Radic (professor at UC San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy), actively collaborated with scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and eventually introduced us to Andrey Kovalevsky. In fact, we made a video with Zoran that you can watch here.
OSP: Please talk a little more about the potential of this technology; feel free to talk about the apps you’re working on, the uses you anticipate for the future, anything about the next steps, and so on.
Molecular beyond organic
Beyond the organic: inorganic. We already have users in academia who use Nanomefor battery materials research. The last sets of semiconductor characteristics are ~ 2 nanometers, which are the size of some Tylenol molecules. Semiconductors and batteries use different parts of the periodic table instead of organic elements.
Building from the atom upwards
We are currently at the scale of 1-10 nanometers (small molecules, peptides / proteins). That said, we want to continue to support more atoms to increase on larger scales. Modeling and simulation of viral, cellular, and tissue-containing tissues that contain atomically accurate data has yet to be performed.
We want users to see what’s happening on the tissue, cell, and viral scale, and then expand the atomic scale to see what’s really going on. This concept is in its early stages and we probably won’t pursue it for at least another five years, but we’d like to go in that direction eventually.
Take the work of collaboration and concert to another level
We also believe that Nanome can be an excellent community center or a type of scientific metavers. There is currently a public lobby where users can see the rest of the public rooms.
Scientists who are not known are known through Nanome. Finally, we want to enhance this even more. How are science concerts in virtual reality? How can CROs and biotechnologies be discovered and known in a virtual metaverse? While it’s probably three or five years old, we believe there’s huge potential for Nanome here.
XR = AR, VR, MR: XR = [___] reality (augmented, mixed, virtual) or extended reality
Traditionally, we have stayed away from augmented reality (RA) because it lacks computing power, high resolution, and manual input mechanism. However, when the technology is here, we believe the RA will be the ideal XR medium, as the real world can still be seen seamlessly.
AR technology is still a few years away, but mixed reality seems to be on the verge of reaching its peak in the coming years. The Varjo XR3 is an excellent headset that allows users to see the real world through high resolution camera / video feeds.
In addition, the Oculus Quest is designed to support mixed reality capabilities. We already have some prototypes for the XR3 and are excited to see the XR industry progress as we add more features to our platform.