A European software is enabling researchers to speed up drug production by interpreting chemical compounds and molecules on a range of laboratory machines. Pharmaceutical companies working on COVID-19 vaccines use it every day.
Science and technology are helping to tackle the pandemic in record time. But how were solutions found so quickly?
One of the answers to this lies in a Spanish Galician company called Mestrelab. Mestrelab invented a software that makes it possible to interpret chemical compounds and molecules of pharmacological interest on a wide range of laboratory machines.
Santiago Domínguez Vivero is the CEO and co-founder of the company. He says that software helps researchers save time by accelerating the research and development of drugs, helping them get on the market quicker. He tells us that in the case of COVID, the software "will allow the economy to reopen and normality to return. Then, as the research progresses quickly, its cost and the cost of the drugs is less".
The idea for this software started at the end of the 90s. In the beginning, there were three specialists, friends, who today employ 50 people and are present in Europe, Asia and America.
Over the last 4 years, Mestrelab has received more than 1.2 million euros from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) which supports innovation and industries of the future as well as The digital agenda, Support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the low-carbon economy.
Pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and universities around the world use this European software.
A software helping fight the pandemic
At CIQUS, a centre specialising in research into chemical, biological and molecular tools, a team is working on a pioneering vaccine against the coronavirus. How could this software help them?
José Manuel Martínez Costas is a researcher at CIQUS and he told us that "in terms of quality control it can help us to see whether our vaccine preparations are clean before injecting the animals and it can also help us in terms of the composition of the vaccine". They have different ways of making the vaccine and they contain types of very small spheres. They can only know the exact composition of these spheres when they're put through an MRI.
MRI, magnetic resonance imaging and mass spectrometry are located nearby CIQUS in the C.A.C.T.U.S. Analysis Centre. For researchers, the structure of certain compounds can be indecipherable. But Mestrelab's software translates the molecular "language" of the MRI, a machine that they call 'the magnet' at C.A.C.T.U.S, into a code that scientists can understand.
How the software is used?
Manuel Martín Pastor is a senior research technician at C.A.C.T.U.S. He tells us how he proceeds when using the Mestrelab software. First, he starts by putting a sample into the MRI and that gives him what he calls its 'spectrum', "a fingerprint of the molecule that is in the sample". When he analyses this fingerprint, it tells him "how the atoms of the molecule are connected". Basically, it tells him how the vaccine or drug analysed is made.
This innovation saves time and provides quick solutions at a lower cost. It's also a software helping in the fight against COVID-19.