NDSU student researchers working to make prescription drugs cheaper

Meticulous. Creative. Intellectually courageous.

That’s NDSU student Kelly Howard in a nutshell. This from Professor David Wells, Ph.D, who teaches Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering.

Howard has the course load you might expect from someone with her skill set. She’s majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology and minoring in chemistry, microbiology, and botany. Oh yeah, she already has a degree in medtech.

And there’s one more thing. She’s leading a team of researchers trying to make new cancer drugs available faster, and for less money.

Between research and development, clinical trials, FDA approval, marketing and more, pharmaceuticals cost a lot of money. It costs an average of $2.5 billion, per drug, says the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. Cancer drugs can get closer to $4 billion.

Working under the name Dynamic Biological Systems (DBS), the team is developing a lab device that could replace the animal testing phase.

It’s an uphill battle. The DBS researchers are all students. Wells serves as faculty advisor. The team has the difficult task of making it up as they go. “This is largely unplowed ground,” explains Wells. What they’re doing is so new, they’re building their own tools so they can do their research.

Wells isn’t worried though, crediting Howard’s skills with the team’s successes. “[She has] good humor through the snags, optimism, creativity, solid science, [and] perseverance.  She treats the successes and the failures equally as step stones along the way to a larger goal.”

DBS’ potential excites Wells. “The amount of money potentially involved is more than the gross national product of 95 percent of the world’s nations.  This is high risk, certainly.  But what if it works!”

Howard is speaking at 1 Million Cups Fargo on Wednesday, November 9, at 9:15 a.m. at The Stage at Island Park.

Ashley Thornberg