About one-third of proteins across all species are estimated to be attached to or associated with a cell's membrane, but excruciatingly little is known about them and the roles they play in cellular processes.
A new project backed by the European Commission and 27 universities and companies in Europe, however, is aiming to change that by expanding the knowledgebase of membrane proteins, hopefully leading to the development of new drugs.
Called the European Drug Initiative for Channels and Transporters, or EDICT, the €15.7 million, four-year project includes researchers from the Max Planck Institute, the Karolinska Institute, Oxford University, and the University of Zurich. Drug makers AstraZeneca and Xention, which develops ion-channel drugs, are also participants.
A total of 37 principal investigators are involved, including Nobel laureates John Walker, who shared the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1997 and is chairing the consortium, and Hartmut Michel, who also shared the Nobel in chemistry, in 1988.
Coordinating the effort will be Peter Henderson, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Leeds.
The EC is providing €11.9 million to the effort with the remaining funding coming from EDICT's participants. The goal of the project is to gain more knowledge about the structure of membrane proteins, and then identify compounds that can be developed to treat diseases for which such proteins have been implicated.
EDICT started when the EC put out a call to researchers for a project to develop new drugs in relation to ion channels and transport proteins. From his own work in purification and amplification of membrane proteins in bacteria, Henderson knew other members of the community he felt would be interested in answering EC's call.
Indeed, the interest level was high enough that some parties had to be turned away, Henderson says, and there are no plans to add more participants.
— Tony Fong
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