Leeds-led project unravels the structures of membrane proteins
1st October 2012
Potential new treatments for heart disease and infections by parasites or bacteria are now in the pipeline thanks to a €12m European project.
The European Drug Initiative on Channels and Transporters (EDICT), which comes to an end this year, focused on membrane proteins. They make up a third of all proteins in every organism and play a key role in many human diseases.
Membrane proteins are difficult to study and poorly understood, but the four-year EDICT project has enabled a major step forward in our understanding of the structures - and even more importantly the functions - of over 30 of these proteins. Bringing together over 100 researchers across 12 countries, the project has developed better and faster ways to express proteins and determine their structure, to speed up the process of drug design.
Project co-ordinator Professor Peter Henderson from the University's Faculty of Biological Sciences explains: "Membrane protein research is still comparatively in its infancy with relatively few structures known, especially for proteins linked to serious disorders. EDICT has increased our knowledge on a scale and at a speed unparalleled in Europe and the data generated by the project will be an invaluable resource for the future."
EDICT created a critical mass of the leading membrane protein researchers in Europe and the advances they have made are considerable. The project has identified at least six potential new drug compounds and the majority of these are already under commercial development by a number of the project partners.
Two spin-out companies have been created from the project, to exploit the technological advances made through the research. Twenty-nine structures of the proteins have been completed with more underway and these data - together with other information on further proteins - are now held in an accessible database to support future research. Over 160 scientific and technical papers have been published or are in press, with a current issue of Molecular Membrane Biology dedicated to papers based on the project.
Professor Henderson says: "The project was organised to maximise interaction between the 40 research groups involved and ensure immediate access to the data generated. The results we've obtained are impressive. EDICT proves that European funding for scientific research can help to make a substantial and significant contribution to the advancement of health in Europe."
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