Statistical Mechanics with Quantum Potentials: Application to Host-Gues

Period of Performance: 04/01/2017 - 03/31/2018


Phase 2 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Verachem, LLC
Germantown, MD 20875
Principal Investigator


DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Host molecules, such as cyclodextrins and cucurbiturils, can 'capture' smaller molecules and affect their physical and chemical behavior. The stronger the host molecule holds onto, i.e. binds, its smaller 'guest' the larger the effect ca be. Host molecules themselves can also be chemically altered (i.e. derivatized), which can change how strongly they bind guest molecules, as well as their own physical properties. Scientists are discovering many human health-related applications for host-guest technology, including improvement of the properties of drugs to make them more effective and safer, potential scavengers for chemical warfare agent removal, and clean-up of environmental chemical pollutants. The amount of basic research as well as applied/industrial R&D in this area is expanding rapidly. Given a particular 'guest' molecule (e.g. drug candidate, chemical pollutant) key pieces of information R&D scientists require is the host-guest binding affinity and the association/dissociation rates. This SBIR project aims to develop a software tool that can accurately predict these host-guest binding properties (e.g. binding free energy). This would allow R&D scientists to carry out computational experiments reducing the number of expensive and time-consuming bench experiments required. There is a current need for such a software tool to be developed, because as recently demonstrated by a blinded test challenge, existing tools are not accurate enough to provide useful information to researchers. Very recent studies indicate that the accuracy of the predictions can be significantly improved by combining quantum mechanical (QM) energy functions with rigorous statistical mechanics. However, these proof-of-concept studies have yet to be translated into a robust computational tool suitable for applied R&D. Therefore, this project will interface VeraChem's current statistical mechanics software package (VM2) with the widely used quantum chemistry package GAMESS, and implement drivers for various computational schemes to achieve this goal. In this proposed hybrid methodology, a Boltzmann distribution of molecular conformations will still be generated via a thorough conformational search as it is for classical VM2; however, the conformational search will not solely rely on molecular mechanics but will be guided by the more reliable QM potential. QM potentials will also be used for entropy terms, including a treatment of anharmonic effects. Full advantage will be taken of recent dramatic improvements in reliability of semi-empirical QM (SEQM), with optional corrections at higher levels of QM. Turnaround of calculations will be speeded up by parallel processing and a sophisticated conformer filter/vetting process.