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Virtual reality is helping chemists discover new life-enhancing drugs

Blue skies, streaked with clouds – an unending expanse of grid to stand on – and one massive molecule: in the drug-discovering virtual world, for the first time, scientists can get up close and personal with the drugs they’re designing. Grabbing hold of a virtual molecule, floating in space before them, using two lightsaber-wielding claw-like hands, the chemist can get as close to touching the desired structure as is (meta)physically possible.

“Starting to use VR was quite transformative, because all of a sudden the molecules become part of my world and I can manipulate them in space just ahead of me, like you would do comparing two oranges and two apples,” says Thorsten Nowak, medicinal chemist at C4XD. With the VR platform, drug discovery “became as visual as it can really ever be”.