Advanced science.  Applied technology.


SwRI turbocharges drug discovery using mobile phone technology

For immediate release

San Antonio — May 16, 2017 — Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) has tapped into mobile communications technology to turbocharge its custom Rhodium Drug Development System. Rhodium, SwRI’s proprietary docking simulation program for biostructure-based drug design, has improved its processing capabilities up to four times faster thanks to a new SwRI-designed and optimized “super computer” that uses the same technology found in mobile communications to enable faster streaming.

“Even before the integration of cell phone technology, the Rhodium software program represented a significant improvement in drug discovery by automatically searching the complete 3-D structure of a protein,” said Dr. Jonathan Bohmann, a principal scientist in SwRI’s Chemistry and Chemical Engineering Division. “Our clients are very excited about the advantages the increased processing power offers.”

When designing a new drug, researchers must understand how a drug or series of similar compounds (known as ligands) will bind with, or inhibit, proteins. SwRI’s Rhodium software prescreens the three-dimensional structure of proteins and enzymes, accelerating pharmaceutical and biochemical research prior to drug development. Even with Rhodium’s rapid turnaround time, clients needed even faster processing capabilities.

Mobile technology is designed to be power efficient. Integrating this technology, SwRI designed and optimized a super computer about the size of a filing cabinet. The unit is secured, ensuring client information remains protected.

“A lot of processing power fits in this compact package,” Bohmann said. “With no external connection the processing happens right here at SwRI, keeping our clients’ information secure. Rhodium is powerful, streaming fast, secure, and efficient.”

After undergoing pilot acceptance tests in early 2017, the processing system is now fully activated.

“The processing results are four times faster than the previous generation,” Bohmann said. “The supercomputer unit is modular and more components can be added as needed to increase processing capacity.”

Rhodium can be used to develop and screen a range of drugs from antibiotics to treatments for diseases from cancer to Alzheimer’s as well as vaccines. The software also predicts adverse drug reactions and side effects. Recently Rhodium was a topmost performer in a community-wide blind docking challenge for predicting drug potency hosted by the Drug Design Data Resource.

To learn more about SwRI, see or visit Booth No. 1341 at INFORMEX

For more information, contact Tracey M.S. Whelan, (210) 522-2256, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, TX 78238-5166.