German pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim collaborates with the University of Dundee in Scotland in a bid to develop a new class of medicines that target disease-causing proteins for degradation.

Proteolysis-Targeting Chimera (PROTAC) is designed to harness the cell’s natural disposal system (the ubiquitin-proteasome) and is used to eliminate the presence of disease causing proteins.

Boehringer Ingelheim discovery research senior corporate vice-president Dr Clive R. Wood said: “Working closely with the researchers at the University of Dundee, one of the top research centres in the UK for life sciences, we aim to establish a unique platform that can generate PROTAC-based drug candidates for multiple areas of unmet medical need.”

PROTACs can perform this task by triggering the labelling of these as ‘expired’ proteins, which are then removed with the help of proteasome.

PROTACs are expected to be largely applicable to diverse therapeutic areas, including oncology, immunology and respiratory diseases.

" … We aim to establish a unique platform that can generate PROTAC-based drug candidates for multiple areas of unmet medical need."

University of Dundee chemical and structural biology associate professor Dr Alessio Ciulli said: “This is a prime example of an industry-academia collaboration to establish a disruptive new approach to drug discovery, initially developed in academia, and to enable its translation all the way to benefit patients.”

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In a bid to ensure the degradation of target proteins, PROTACs are made of a moiety that binds the target and a moiety that binds an ubiquitin ligase enzyme.

As a result of this, the PROTACs are expected to exceed the size of traditional existing oral drug molecules, and therefore represent a considerable challenge.

Boehringer Ingelheim is working on developing new treatment approaches that can provide effective solutions to patients.

Image: University of Dundee associate professor Dr Alessio Ciulli is one of the major researchers in the field of PROTACs. Photo: courtesy of Business Wire.