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April 4, 2016

Heptares forms consortium to advance drug discovery using cryo-EM technique

Heptares Therapeutics has partnered with four pharmaceutical companies and other institutions to form the Cambridge-Pharmaceutical Cryo-EM Consortium.

By Srivari Aishwarya

Heptares Therapeutics has partnered with four pharmaceutical companies and other institutions to form the Cambridge-Pharmaceutical Cryo-EM Consortium.

The consortium will evaluate the potential of cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) to advance structure-based drug discovery.

The cryo-EM technique helps in determining 3D information about protein structures at the molecular level.

“Cryo-EM 3D models allow us to see and understand the workings of protein-based molecular machines.”

The Cryo-EM Consortium is comprised of Astex Pharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and UCB, in addition to the UK Medical research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology (MRC-LMB); the Nanoscience Centre of the University of Cambridge; and FEI Company.

Heptares said that by using traditional structure determination methods such as x-ray crystallography and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, cryo-EM can reveal the structure of complex molecular assemblies to near atomic level.

This information could help improve the design of new drugs targeting specific proteins, such as G protein-coupled receptors.

FEI life sciences business vice-president and general manager Peter Fruhstorfer said: "Cryo-EM 3D models allow us to see and understand the workings of protein-based molecular machines that we could not analyse before because they were too large and complex or were resistant to the preparations required for other techniques.

"The technique was rapidly adopted by leading academic researchers and is now finding its way into early stage discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry."

Heptares currently partners with pharmaceutical companies such as AstraZeneca, MedImmune and Teva for candidates across neuroscience, immuno-oncology, metabolic and orphan disease areas.

Last year, Heptares was acquired by Japanese biopharmaceutical company Sosei for up to $400m.

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