Anadys Pharmaceuticals said last week that it had won a three-year grant from the German government to identify protein and RNA drug targets for the hepatitis C virus using technology for studying protein-protein and RNA-protein interactions.
The grant, from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, will fund work at Anadys’ research facility in Heidelberg, Germany, in collaboration with scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Göttingen, and the University of Göttingen.
“The goal of the project is to identify host proteins recruited by the hepatitis C virus during translation — usually they’re part of a large complex, the translation initiation complex,” said Silke Schumacher, the managing director of Anadys’ Heidelberg facility. “Once we have identified the protein components, we would like to validate them using RNAi and other techniques, and then potentially validate them as drug targets to develop small molecules against hepatitis C infections.”
Schumacher declined to disclose the amount of the grant from the German government, but said that Anadys would provide matching funds over the three-year project. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, known as BMBF, has devoted more than EURO 50 million to proteomics research, Schumacher added.
Although the lead investigator of the project is Reinhard L hrmann, a researcher in cellular biochemistry at the Max Planck Institute and member of Anadys’ scientific advisory board, Anadys will perform the bulk of the research at its Heidelberg facility, said Schumacher. Anadys will have access to mass spectro-metry technology at EMBL, x-ray crystallography capabilities at the University of Göttingen, and cyro-electron microscopy expertise at the Max-Planck-Institute. In addition, the team at Anadys will apply a form of RNAi, or RNA interference technology developed at the Max Planck Institute for knocking out specific gene products and studying the effects in cell lines.
“We’ve accessed all these different technologies and the know-how that is behind them, which is very good for us,” Schumacher said.
Anadys’ Heidelberg facility, originally founded as a spinoff from EMBL, will perform both in vivo and in vitro studies of patient samples and cell lines using its protein affinity pull-down and mass spectrometry platform, based on technology licensed from EMBL. Schumacher declined to go into the specifics of Anadys’ affinity purification and mass spectrometry platform.
But what differentiates Anadys’ technology from other proteomics labs, Schumacher said, is the ability to go after RNA-protein interactions in addition to protein-protein interactions. “It’s a little bit broader view than just to look at proteins; we consider RNA a viable target for drug development,” she said.
Schumacher added that Anadys has an option to license rights to discoveries made by the academic parties involved in the hepatitis C project.