The vast majority of pharmaceutical drugs are based on small molecules that scientists isolate or develop in a lab. These small-molecule drugs include over-the-counter products like aspirin and antihistamines, as well as treatments for serious conditions like cancer and heart failure.
However, the facilities for developing molecules that have the potential to become disease-fighting drugs are rarely found outside large pharmaceutical companies. This means many smaller companies and startups must outsource most of the work involved in drug discovery and development.
The Indiana Biosciences Research Institute (IBRI) created our state-of-the-art Dr. August M. Watanabe Drug Discovery Laboratory to enable access to all the resources required for drug discovery and development. At 5,000 square feet, the lab can accommodate 13 chemists and includes the latest equipment for compound characterization, synthesis and chromatography, as well as a full complement of glassware.
Scientists at the IBRI use the lab to make discoveries in Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and pediatric rare diseases like neurofibromatosis type 2 and osteosarcoma. The lab also is used by scientists who come to the IBRI from other organizations to conduct their own research. It’s a vital addition to the broader drug discovery and development community and advancement of our mission to enable research with distinct goals and benefits for patients.
A turnkey solution with the latest tools and technologies
We designed the lab to include everything researchers need to explore the medicinal potential of molecules. Researchers outside the IBRI can bring their chemicals and use the lab like it’s their own.
Equipment available to researchers includes:
- The Buchi R-300 rotovap system with an integrated V600 dual vacuum pump that can obtain a vacuum of 1.5 mbar.
- For compound characterization, the Bruker HD Fourier 80 MHz nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer and a Shimadzu LCMS-2020 with autosampler.
- For synthesis, an ElectraSyn 2.0 stir plate apparatus, capable of running cyclic voltammetry, electrosynthesis and parallel synthesis. We also have a Synple 2 Automated Synthesizer for automated synthesis.
- A complete chromatography suite, consisting of three Next Gen 300 Teledyne ISCO systems, capable of normal and reverse phase separations; the Teledyne ISCO ACCQ prep HP 150 with autosampler; and a Genevac EZ-2 4.0 Elite evaporator for removal of solvents from multiple samples simultaneously.
Outside researchers using the lab can leverage other resources as well. Our integrated software solutions include CDD Vault for database management and the Schrödinger Suite of Tools for modeling and other tasks. The IBRI also facilitates the purchasing, storage, tracking and disposal of chemicals and enables researchers to use our processes for compound sample management and rapid PK studies used to support drug discovery Structure Activity Relationship (SAR) flow schemes.
A hub for drug discovery and development
The Watanabe Drug Discovery Lab enables life science startups and small businesses to conduct their own research, and creates new opportunities for them to trade insights and inspiration with each other. It’s a hub for the breakthroughs that happen when scientists work side by side to tackle tough questions and attempt bold experiments.
Our goal is to catalyze drug discovery and development by creating a space where research isn’t limited by practical constraints. The Watanabe Drug Discovery Lab removes those barriers so that researchers are free to make the discoveries that patients depend on.
The lab is named in honor of the late Dr. August M. Watanabe, whose extraordinary leadership and relentless focus on patients forever changed the research landscape in Indiana and beyond. Dr. Watanabe was a former chair of the Indiana University School of Medicine, as well as the youngest professor of medicine in the history of the school. He also served as president of Lilly Research Laboratories at Eli Lilly and Company, where he oversaw the launch of a record 11 new drugs. He finished his career as a board member and advisor for multiple biotech companies. Dr. Watanabe’s scientific mind and kind demeanor are missed by all, but his incredible legacy lives on in our Drug Discovery Lab and the work of the countless researchers he touched during his career.