Computer-designed drugs

From our autumn 2017 issue of Care and Cure magazine, find out more about the work behind speeding up drug design.

Dr Francesco Aprile, winner of the Alzheimer’s Society Outstanding Contribution to Dementia Research award, has published new work to speed up drug design.

Removing deposits of abnormal proteins from the brain is an important target for new drugs to combat Alzheimer’s disease. One way of doing this is to develop antibodies – molecules that attach to abnormal proteins to bring them to the attention of the body’s immune system so that they can be removed.

Recently it has become possible to use large computer databases of biological structures to design new antibodies. This can allow greater precision as well as reducing time and development costs.

Dr Aprile, an Alzheimer’s Society research fellow at the University of Cambridge, has published new results in the journal Science Advances showing that antibodies designed using this technique can target specific regions of amyloid, a protein which is associated with the development of Alzheimer’s. This precision means that the antibodies have potential to disrupt harmful forms of the protein without triggering a damaging immune response. However, there’s a lot of work to do to develop these drugs further before they could be tested in people.

James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, said, ‘Over the last 50 years, advances in antibody technology have delivered radical new treatments for a wide range of common diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and some forms of cancer. While the research is still in the early stages, we are excited by the potential of this work and hope it can do the same for Alzheimer’s disease.’

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