The project – the European Drug Initiative for Channels and Transporters (EDICT) – will target about 80 proteins which play an important role in human diseases as varied as diabetes, heart disease, epilepsy, depression, osteoporosis, stomach ulcers and cataracts.
Membrane proteins are key to every process in the human body, channelling ions or transporting chemicals and so are ideal targets for new treatments. Infections by pathogenic bacteria, yeasts and parasites also involve their own membrane proteins, which can be specific targets for the development of new drugs and antibiotics.
The research involves twenty-seven partners from twelve countries and is set to last four years. Industrial partners include pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and Cambridge-based Xention, a small company specialising in the discovery and development of novel and selective ion channel drugs.
The researchers include biologists, structural biologists, chemists and experts in x-ray crystallography, nuclear magnetic resonance, and electron microscopy. The team aims to map out the structure of the proteins, so they can identify compounds that could be developed as a treatment for these diseases.