A new drug can take 10 to 15 years to be developed and cost around US$2.6 billion to produce-yet fewer than 14 per cent of drugs actually gain regulatory approval. A second problem with the drug development process is the increasing concern that animal studies do not accurately predict how drugs will behave in the human body. As Canada Research Chair in Microfluidics for Drug Discovery and Health Care, Dr. Katherine Elvira aims to create a paradigm shift in the way drugs are tested early in the discovery process by building artificial cells that mimic human cells.
She and her research team are building bespoke artificial cells from the bottom up that contain membrane-based cellular components and organelles (specialized structures that perform specific jobs inside cells). They will use these systems to study the active and passive transport of drugs across cell membranes. Ultimately, their findings have the potential to create an exciting new direction in our fight against a range of diseases.