Virtual Reality-Based Drug Discovery and Chemical Education Game

They’re trying to manipulate a molecule
to try and make it interact with a protein. And they’re trying to
increase their score in the game. The better the score, the better the interaction. And so then they can take
that data back and actually test it in the lab. It’s a chemical
platform it’s a chemical education and gaming platform which we have made which
can actually teach people about molecular interactions. Virtual reality
is basically transferring you into a new world, so to speak, and by its
definition it’s a virtual reality of your actual real reality. Molecules are
so tiny and so small that we cannot we don’t have a physical sense of how they
interact on how they behave. We gave a protein which was PBL1, which is a known cancer target they’re implicated in treating a lot of cancers,
and we gave high school students a molecule that’s known to inhibit this
protein. I told the students okay I want you to take this this molecule and
trying to design a new molecule that’s better than the one that we gave you.
Sort of take this molecule manipulate in a 3D space, take it apart, break it up,
put it back together, add atoms to it remove atoms from it, to improve – what to them was a score. It actually gives them actual numeric numbers saying,
okay, I did this, my score improved that’s a good thing. My interactions improved.
All of us are really good at recognizing patterns, so if I can reinforce that in a
gaming-based mechanism, where where they see something and the score gets
high, they will always remember that as a trick. For the gaming part we also want
to have kind of like a quest and reward system – that we can kind of assign the
player daily or actual weekly. So we have kind of like a quest or
mission that’s that’s being sent from our server to the user. And then the
user can accept those missions and then do them using their VR devices. On
the science side, I think kind of my vision really is that this could really become
a crowd-source drug discovery or drug design game.
Let’s say there is an epidemic like an Ebola epidemic or something. You can
really involve citizens and citizen scientists to come together, where
you can give out targets like this. And you have people around the world
playing and coming up with new molecules and
existing molecules which you could use to target a particular disease or the
existing diseases which are there. If you can design it, they can make it in the
lab. You can change a bond angle which I didn’t know you could do. And they can
then manufacture it in the lab and see if it works. And that’s fascinating to me.
So I think the kids are having fun with it – just seeing how you can rearrange
molecules and what will that do. So it’s just a technology that holds their
interest and also teaches them at the same time. So I love it! We’ve only ever
seen things (molecules) on paper and so actually seeing it in real life, and seeing it in
a three-dimensional world – the virtual reality it does a great job of letting
you see that and kind of manipulate it and work around it.
Seeing that especially when you can’t do it with your own hands, but to see that
in the VR realm, it really helps students to visualize what they’re
doing. It’s really a fun way to to to take the fear out of chemistry, I
would say.

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