UB spin-off company receives grant to boost drug screening technology

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- Cytocybernetics received a $1.5 Million grant from the National Institutes of Health to further the work of one of it’s devices; the Cybercyte.

The grant will allow the company to continue improving drug screening technology, which the CEO believes will streamline the drug approval process.

The Cybercyte, which was developed for commercial use by the company in 2013, studies enhanced cells to determine how new drugs will affect the heart.

Prior to the grant, the Cybercyte studied one cell at a time; now the company has access to technology to increase its work outflow.

“The current gold standard for determining whether a drug is going to cause an arrhythmia is wrong 30 percent of the time. So currently we have a lot of drug candidates in the drug development pipeline that ultimately fail, so if we can eliminate the bad drugs earlier with the Cybercyte test, that’s going to have a huge financial impact on company’s bringing drugs to market,” said the company’s CEO Dr. Glenna Bett.

Bett co-founded Cytocybernetics with Randall Rasmusson, PhD, professor of physiology and biophysics in the Jacobs School.

One of the things the FDA looks for in the drug development process is whether or not the medicine in question poses a risk of cardiac arrhythmia, or an abnormal heart rhythm, which can be fatal.

The Cybercyte allows the company to study this risk, by electronically expressing how heart cells will respond to certain medications in real time.

Scientists at Cytocybernetics actually use cells that have been grown in the lab; companies that make these cells take a skin cell, and through a series of chemical cocktails, can make it mirror other cells, like a heart cell.

The grant has allowed a company, a 43North winner, to hire three more scientists in addition to creating quicker outputs for their tests.

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