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Positive outlook for targeting new drugs

Research on a new approach to developing new drugs is making good progress. The EU's health system is set to benefit from the identification of potential new drug target sites.

Health

Membrane proteins are essential for regulating biological activity within cells – giving us our sense of sight, the ability to breathe, convert nerve signals into actions and use nutrients for energy. Because proteins control cell behaviour, they are ideal targets for the development of new drugs. At the moment, only a few scattered researchers are elucidating the structure-activity relationships of membrane proteins. The aim of the EU-funded 'European drug initiative on channels and transporters' (EDICT) project is to enhance research in this area by overcoming that isolation and integrating efforts to develop new pharmaceuticals. The project is focusing on applying high-throughput approaches for structure-function analysis of membrane transporters and channels. The large multidisciplinary and integrated effort is using different technologies for structure determination (nuclear magnetic resonance, X-ray crystallography and electron microscopy). It will also combine computational and experimental analyses. This should help to identify potential new target sites for drugs to alleviate the burden of diseases. A collaborative project with 27 partners from 12 countries, EDICT brings together Europe's foremost experts in membrane proteins, including two Nobel laureates, to find novel treatments for a number of human diseases. The research team will investigate over 80 proteins that play important roles in diseases as diverse as diabetes, stomach ulcers and cataracts. To date, project partners have published novel protein structures, devised new tests for target proteins and produced and purified many such proteins from both organisms with a cell nucleus (prokaryotes) and those without one (eukaryotes). Drug development is essential if we are to combat severe diseases and improve the health of Europeans as well as address global health issues.

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