Interactivity: the missing link between virtual reality technology and drug discovery pipelines

Rebecca K. Walters, Ella M. Gale, Jonathan Barnoud, David R. Glowacki, Adrian J. Mulholland

Research output: Working paperPreprint

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The potential of virtual reality (VR) to contribute to drug design and development has been recognised for many years. Hardware and software developments now mean that this potential is beginning to be realised, and VR methods are being actively used in this sphere. A recent advance is to use VR not only to visualise and interact with molecular structures, but also to interact with molecular dynamics simulations of 'on the fly' (interactive molecular dynamics in VR, IMD-VR), which is useful not only for flexible docking but also to examine binding processes and conformational changes. iMD-VR has been shown to be useful for creating complexes of ligands bound to target proteins, e.g., recently applied to peptide inhibitors of the SARS-CoV-2 main protease. In this review, we use the term 'interactive VR' to refer to software where interactivity is an inherent part of the user VR experience e.g., in making structural modifications or interacting with a physically rigorous molecular dynamics (MD) simulation, as opposed to simply using VR controllers to rotate and translate the molecule for enhanced visualisation. Here, we describe these methods and their application to problems relevant to drug discovery, highlighting the possibilities that they offer in this arena. We suggest that the ease of viewing and manipulating molecular structures and dynamics, and the ability to modify structures on the fly (e.g., adding or deleting atoms) makes modern interactive VR a valuable tool to add to the armoury of drug development methods.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

19 pages, 3 figures


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