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Protein Structure/Function Determination

This article was originally published in Start Up

Executive Summary

After 20 years and the efforts of thousands of researchers working on the problem structures have only been revealed for about 20,000 proteins out of 500,000 known protein sequences. When combined with the latest experimental and computational techniques, sequence and structural information provide some useful guidelines. Pharmaceutical companies are using it to sift from massive amounts of sequence information a more manageable number of biologically relevant targets; the undertaking is now known as structural genomics. Today this field is a hotbed of activity for new companies that offer improved X-ray crystallography techniques, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, annotated protein databases, computational algorithms, and combinations of all of the above.

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FoldRx Pharmaceuticals Inc.

When a protein faiils to fold properly, its function is lost and disease may follow. FoldRx Pharmaceuticals hopes to become the first company to develop agents that target misfolded proteins to stop the many diseases they cause.

Bio Information Technologies Ltd.

The hunt for drugs that act on G-protein coupled receptors (GPCR) presents a unique challenge in drug discovery, because pharmaceutical researchers don't possess the three-dimensional structure of a single therapeutically relevant GPCR, crucial information that provides a starting point for understanding the function of a receptor, and then designing drugs that bind to it. The founders of Bio-IT have created a program that works at the atomic level to predict the three-dimensional structures of GPCRs. The model uses as inputs amino acid sequence information, geometric algorithms, and physicochemical factors.

Structural GenomiX

Founders of Structural GenomiX hope to shorten the X-ray crystallography process to such an extent that it can become, in effect, "the Celera Genomics of protein structures."

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