New method for identifying proteins should have “a major impact on the development of new biologics,” U of T researcher says
Biologics are a type of drug that results from the high-tech manipulation of our own proteins, as opposed to more traditional drugs built from synthetic chemicals. Because of their success so far, scientists are racing to create new biologics – and now, a U of T researcher has developed a way to make that process more powerful.
Philip M. Kim, an associate professor in U of T’s Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research, combined high-tech computer simulation and high-throughput laboratory experiments to create what he hopes will be the most effective way to discover the proteins that are key to new biologics. His research was published online in the journal Science Advances on July 20, 2016.
“A large fraction of new therapeutics these days involve engineered proteins that latch onto a drug target, for instance on a cancer cell,” says Kim, also of the departments of molecular genetics and computer science. “Finding a protein that effectively binds to a target can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack.
“Our method should open up new opportunities to find those key proteins – and make a major impact on the development of new biologics.”
Researchers at the University of California San Diego and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have come up with a strategy for using synthetic biology in therapeutics. The approach enables continual production and release of drugs at disease sites in mice while simultaneously limiting the size, over time, of the populations of bacteria engineered to produce the drugs. The findings are published in the July 20 online issue of Nature.
UC San Diego researchers led by Jeff Hasty, a professor of bioengineering and biology, engineered a clinically relevant bacterium to produce cancer drugs and then self-destruct and release the drugs at the site of tumors. The team then transferred the bacterial therapy to their MIT collaborators for testing in an animal model of colorectal metastasis. The design of the therapy represents a culmination of four previous Nature papers from the UC San Diego group that describe the systematic development of engineered genetic clocks and synchronization. Over the years, the researchers have employed a broad approach that spans the scales of synthetic biology,
The new study offers a therapeutic approach that minimizes damage to surrounding cells.
“In synthetic biology, one goal of therapeutics is to target disease sites and minimize damage,” said UC San Diego bioengineering and biology professor Jeff Hasty. He wondered if a genetic “kill” circuit could be engineered to control a population of bacteria in vivo, thus minimizing their growth. “We also wanted to deliver a significant therapeutic payload to the disease site.”