WINSTON-Targacept has received a $2 million grant to assist in the development of computer simulation software for use in new drug development.

The grant, which will be provided over three years, is from the National Institute of Standards and Technology as part of its Advanced Technology Program.

“This award, our second federal grant this year, highlights the depth and breadth of our drug discovery capabilities,” said William Caldwell, Targacept’s vice president of drug discovery and development. “It is especially important, in terms of validating Targacept’s core capabilities, that we won the award as a first-time applicant to ATP.”

Targacept received a grant from the National Science Foundation for innovative drug research. It could be worth as much as $750,000. Earlier this year it closed on $14 million in venture funding.

Targacept, a biopharmaceutical company focused on the nervous system, said the funds would be used to develop software that predicts biological and toxicological effects of drugs. The company said the software would assist the drug development process by enabling ” The award will help fund Targacept’s development of new drugs by enabling “earlier and better predictions about the molecular properties of drug candidates, improve selection of compounds for development and reduce the failure rate in the drug development process.”

Targacept is working to develop drugs that stimulate nerve receptors to help treat Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, depression, pain, anxiety disorders and schizophrenia.

Jeffrey Schmitt, director of molecular design, will be the principal investigator. Also assisting will be Robert Cato of Princeton Materials Institute at Princeton University and Todd Minehart of the department of chemistry at the University of Colorado.

“Our research will leverage ab initio (from the beginning) Molecular
Dynamics (aiMD) concepts, which have revolutionized electronic structure simulation and led to previously inaccessible insights, to facilitate more efficient drug discovery and development,” Schmitt said in a statement.

ATP awards are designed to help private industry pursue projects that carry significant technical risks and can’t be fully funded by a private company.