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Functional assays for membrane protein on nanostructured supports

Final Report Summary - ASMENA (Functional assays for membrane protein on nanostructured supports)

The ASMENA project aims to create new tools and techniques for drug development and screening. Today, more than 50% of all drug targets are membrane proteins. The more that is known about membrane proteins, the easier it is to find out what effects certain substances may have in the body. If substances lacking the desired effects on the target proteins or having a harmful effect can be sorted out at an earlier stage, this considerably shortens the drug development process. In addition, this means less need for animal testing, and that there is likely less risk of harm to the lab animals as a result of the tests made. Once the substances have been developed into finished pharmaceutical drugs, the clinical trials (where drugs are tested on humans) will involve less risk, and the end result will be safer and more efficient pharmaceutical drugs.
The ASMENA project aims to develop the knowledge and methods needed to build label-free formats for membrane protein drug screening assays. By downscaling assays, costs can be reduced by reducing reagent and substance use, and also by allowing earlier detection of potential drug hits or toxicity effects. Combining several such assays on a chip will create a versatile platform where a great number of events can be measured at the same time at different spots on the chip, enabling functional screening of drug interactions with membranes and several classes of membrane proteins which are potential drug targets. ASMENA is a highly transdisciplinary, fascinating project with both scientific and technological aspects ranging from nanofabrication of materials and surfaces, polymer chemistry for the functionalization of biointerfaces, to physics and biochemistry of lipidic systems and membrane proteins, to device integration and quantitative biosensing and drug screening assays. It is a close partnership of seven academic and seven industrial partners that cover the necessary knowledge and expertise in the fields, and a student and postdoctoral researcher team fully committed to the overall goals and joint efforts.
Among the achievements of the project it is worth mentioning the successful and cost-effective fabrication of nanoporous membrane chips, development of dedicated macromolecules and assembly procedures for the surface functionalisation of the chips, improved or new protocols for the preparation and placement of liposomes and membranes on nanoporous chips by self-organization, and the incorporation of membrane proteins for electrochemical and optical readouts. In addition, several novel approaches have been invented and introduced during the project for the quantitative assessment of membrane transport processes and even a small library of drug leads have been screened resulting in interesting hits for aquaporins, an important class of membrane proteins.
Results have, during the whole duration of the project, been published in dedicated scientific journals and communicated at scientific conferences. ASMENA project background, concepts and achievements have also been communicated to a more general public through newsletters in the partner institutions, newspapers, and radio broadcasting. The ASMENA website provides downloadable information for both the scientific community and the general public.
Given the interdisciplinary character of the project, the dedication of each partner to collaborative efforts, open communication across all partners and specific student events, our project contributes greatly to student education and training, both in scientific, technological and social respect.