Paving the way to efficient and effective drug design
U of T professor Phillip Kim develops innovative way to design highly-effective protein-based drugs
In the world of drug manufacturing, research and development can take years. U of T Associate Professor Philip Kim has discovered a way to make the process more efficient, which was recently published in Science Advances. Kim and his lab at the Donnelly Centre for Cellular and Biomolecular Research have been able to productively manufacture a class of drugs known as ‘biologics’. Their new method involves combining current protein synthesis methods with computer-aided design.
Biologics differ from regular pharmaceuticals because they can be composed of organic molecules like sugars and proteins; traditional drugs are chemically-manufactured within a lab. Biologics are used to treat or diagnose medical conditions and diseases, but can also be used in vaccines, allergen testing, and blood transfusions. While their organic composition makes them more susceptible to heat and contamination, they can be a more effective method of treatment. In 2015, 40 per cent of drugs in use were biologics and that number is expected to grow.
For Kim, the focus of the study was to improve a human protein’s ability to bind to cells. Proteins are large tangled chains of smaller molecules called ‘amino acids’. The various characteristics of these amino acids enable them to interact with each other, causing the protein to fold, and allowing it to dynamically interact with other molecules around it.