New ambitious center delves into protein drugs of the future

(Nanowerk News) Designing new drugs based on the body’s own molecules will be the focus of a new Center for Biopharmaceuticals that was launched at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences on 1 November. The Center will help solve the pharmaceutical challenges of the future in the field of biological drugs.
The Center for Biopharmaceuticals will be a pioneering force in technologies that combine the principles and tools of chemistry with the synthetic strategies and processes of living organisms to create proteins with completely novel properties. The Center will build on the strong multi-disciplinary relationship between the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences’ two pharmaceutical departments, the Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology and the Department of Pharmacy.
Protein drugs are based on nature’s own design. That’s a big plus, because it means they are in tune with the body’s own raw material. It means drugs with less severe side-effects. Currently more than half of drugs that are being tested in clinical trials are so-called biopharmaceuticals – consisting of proteins, peptides of nucleic acids – and the number is rising steadily.
“The ability to manipulate proteins, known as protein engineering, has paved the way for important breakthroughs in biotechnology and biomedicine. Proteins can for instance target certain cell processes with very high precision – and drugs based on proteins or peptides enable new ways to treat many diseases,” says Ole Thastrup, Professor and Head of the Department of Drug Design and Pharmacology, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences.
Pioneering research in chemical biology
The Center for Biopharmaceuticals is an ambitious “beacon” at the forefront of pharmaceutical protein and peptide research. Proteins play a fundamental role in biological processes. They consist of strings of amino acids – so-called peptides – composed of up to 20 different amino acids. The composition, structure and function of proteins are controlled by the genetic code. At the new Center for Biopharmaceuticals, bright minds from around the world will be looking into rewriting this universal code:
“To bring about the next major leap forward in protein science, we need to break through one of the greatest barriers of conventional protein engineering – the ability to ‘write’ protein recipes using other ‘letters’ than those 20 that make up the genetic alphabet,” says Professor Kristian Strømgaard, who has been appointed Director of the new Center for Biopharmaceuticals.
Source: University of Copenhagen
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