San Diego Business Journal

Nanome Inc.’s 3-D Modeling May Help Shape Solutions, Save Lives

SOFTWARE: Company Targeting Life Sciences As Well as Other Sectors By Brad Graves Originally published May 15, 2017 at 9:38 a.m., updated May 15, 2017 at 9:38 a.m.
   

Nanome COO Keita Funakawa, left, and CEO Steve McCloskey stand before an image of the human immunodeficiency virus. People using Nanome’s software can explore a virus’ structure from all angles. Photo courtesy of Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego

Nanome COO Keita Funakawa, left, and CEO Steve McCloskey stand before an image of the human immunodeficiency virus. People using Nanome’s software can explore a virus’ structure from all angles. Photo courtesy of Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego

NANOME INC.

CEO: Steve McCloskey

Revenue: Undisclosed

No. of local employees: Eight full time

Investors: Seed investors include Taner Halicioglu

Headquarters: UC San Diego campus

Year founded: 2015

What makes the company innovative: Nanome software produces 3-D models of atoms as well as mathematical graphs

— One minute I’m at UC San Diego, on the second floor of an engineering building.

The next I’m taking a dive through a virus.

It’s amazing where virtual reality might take you.

I am at the headquarters of Nanome Inc., a groundbreaking company housed in the Qualcomm Institute innovation space in Atkinson Hall. I’ve been instructed to put on my Oculus Rift headset as if I’m putting on a baseball cap, and to put a plastic controller in each hand, taking care where I put my fingers.

A set of virtual reality goggles can take you places, but you can’t go far without software. That’s where Nanome comes in.

Nano One

The company offers a molecular visualization and modeling tool called Nano One, which I am using.

I am actually diving through the multicolored layers of a 3-D model of the human immunodeficiency virus. Yes, HIV is a fearful thing. But here the structure is beautiful and complex. To help people who don’t normally have to navigate through viruses, it’s also color-coded.

My guide, company COO Keita Funakawa, takes me down a few levels of magnitude, so we are now looking at molecules in midair.

The atoms and bonds are represented by balls and sticks, which remind me of old-school building toys (think of pieces from a Tinkertoy set, floating in front of you as if weightless).

It’s time to use the controllers. An operator’s left hand goes into a controller slightly clenched, as if it’s going into a baseball mitt. There is a similar controller for the right hand. By clenching and releasing, a person can grab the molecule in front of him and manipulate it.

I turn it 45 degrees, then 90 degrees. The user can turn the molecule over to get a better view of its structure. A savvy user could search for chinks in the molecule’s armor. The software could be used to help drug design.

An operator can also call up a computer keyboard that seems to float magically among the atoms, to give other commands.

Potential for Many Applications

This particular software is optimized for the life sciences. A user can call up proteins from UC San Diego’s protein data bank. Edgardo Leija, a company co-founder, said Nanome can optimize the software for other disciplines by loading appropriate libraries of data. Nano One has potential to help chemical engineers, semiconductor designers and battery designers, he said.

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