Synthetic cell membranes offer low-cost, easily maintained drug targets that help shorten the drug discovery process. What once took weeks or even months can now be done in a matter of days.

Schematic showing how the artificial membranes are formed and their advantages over existing live cell culture methods. Image: ACM Biolabs

Cells communicate with each other and exchange vital molecules through their membranes, facilitated by specific membrane proteins. Disruption of the communication pattern can lead to cancer, diabetes, obesity or other diseases. Understanding how membrane proteins work is critical in creating medicines to combat diseases.

Artificial cell membranes (ACMs) are customised synthetic cell membranes that mimic live, targeted membrane proteins. The new technology allows the production of membrane proteins without the need for the specially controlled environments, conditions and training that is required in current live cell culture laboratories. The patented artificial cell membrane technology was first developed at Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) by integrating biology with innovative materials and is now licensed to ACM Biolabs.

ACM Biolabs has adapted natural cellular processes to invent a simple yet functional system where synthetic materials are engineered to host membrane proteins. These include some membrane proteins that cannot currently be produced in a stable form using today’s cell-based technology.

“Our proprietary artificial cell membrane technology is a unique combination of engineered polymer materials and biology that gives pharmaceutical companies a faster, cheaper alternative to current drug discovery methods,” says Dr Madhavan Nallani, a former A*STAR scientist who is the founder and now director of ACM Biolabs. “Our aim is to lower the entry barrier for more companies and labs to screen novel drugs or test existing drugs on novel targets.”

According to Dr Nallani, the new ACM technology allows pharmaceutical companies to screen many more potential drug candidates in less time than it normally takes to test a single molecule. As a result, companies could save up to 60% of the costs of drug development, which in some cases reach hundreds of millions of dollars.



For further information contact:

Mr Eugene Low
Institute of Materials Research and Engineering
Agency for Science, Technology and Research, Singapore

Dr Madhavan Nallani
ACM Biolabs Pte Ltd., Singapore