Swansea spin out company Moleculomics, headed by Jonathan Mullins and Will Krawszik, have developed two unique in-silicoplatforms. For pharmaceutical companies to produce new medications, a typical candidate drug compound takes around twelve years to move from idea to market. Also, if a drug binds to the wrong protein in the human body it can lead to negative side effects (for example the use of thalidomide prescribed to pregnant women to treat morning sickness resulted in birth defects in the 1960's). In response to this, Moleculomics have used a supercomputer which is able to significantly reduce the time it takes for a new cure to come to market, and screens problems before medicines are dispensed by pharmacists which could potentially save many lives and prevent unwanted side effects for patients.
Moleculomics' is focused on developing a novel technology platform (or pipelines) that take genetic information (in the form of DNA sequences) and automatically convert this data into detailed three-dimensional models of all of the proteins within the human body. The pipeline can be used to carry out simulations of the interactions of a new drug with all of these proteins and at a much higher specificity. This means that medicines can be made more accurate in targeting the correct protein to bind to and would also ensure that they are less likely to result in unforeseen side effects due to interactions with other proteins.
This technology should also reduce the number of animals used in scientific research. In industry sectors where animal studies are still required, the prediction of off-target toxicity of substances prior to testing them on animals will better inform the dosing levels used for the mandatory regulatory toxicology studies. This will serve to enable early elimination of candidate molecules, and so reduce both the numbers of unnecessary studies and animals used.
Detailed knowledge of every possible structure of a protein would prove to be very valuable to pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies as they move towards personalised medicine – where doctors can identify specific treatment strategies for particular people with particular forms of a disease and tailor clinical management to individual genetic composition. This technology could also be used to improve our understanding of other organisms, such as anti-fungal compounds that could be used as agrichemical compounds, to fight fungal infections in plants.