Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) has collaborated with Kawasaki City to conduct research and development (R&D), build an infrastructure, and implement a business promotion programme for computational drug discovery for middle molecules.

Middle molecules refer to peptides, nucleic acids and other molecules that have a molecular weight of approximately 500 to 30,000.

The partnership is for the ‘Programme to Industrialise an Innovative Middle Molecule Drug Discovery Flow through Fusion of Computational Drug Design and Chemical Synthesis Technology.’

The programme integrates computational drug design methods into the field of drug discovery for middle molecules.

It also combines computational drug design that uses molecular simulation and machine learning by Tokyo Tech’s super computer Tsubame, and new chemical synthesis technology, such as artificial peptides and artificial nucleic acids.

With an aim to implement the research project, the Middle Molecule IT-based Drug Discovery Laboratory (MIDL) will be opened in the current fiscal year in Tonomachi King Skyfront, Kawasaki City.

Once operational, it will be the world’s first laboratory to conduct computational drug discovery of middle molecules.

Tokyo Tech will also open a MIDL core facility within the university campus.

"Computational prediction for the bio-stability and cell membrane permeability of middle molecules is very challenging."

Tokyo Tech School of Computing professor Yutaka Akiyama said: “Computational prediction for the bio-stability and cell membrane permeability of middle molecules is very challenging.

“By using Tokyo Tech's world-leading supercomputing techniques and extensive experience in machine learning, and by cooperating with many related corporations, I hope that MIDL will provide the world with practical technology for accelerating middle molecule drug discovery.”

The five-year research programme will include several R&D projects, an infrastructure development for creating a regional industrial ecosystem, and implementation of a business promotion programme.

The programme will help provide new drugs at affordable prices to patients who require new treatment methods.

Image: The membrane permeation process of a cyclic peptide. Photo: courtesy of PRNewsfoto / Tokyo Institute of Technology; City of Kawasaki.