Like Legos: the Dynamics of Proteins for the Design of Innovative Drugs
The APRE - Agency for the Promotion of European Research has included the project X-Probe, coordinated by Beatrice Vallone of the Department of Biochemical Sciences, among the best scientific ideas funded in the Horizon2020 programme.
The project tackles the study of protein structure dynamics with a multidisciplinary approach, one of the most complex problems in the field of structural biology. In fact, knowing the dynamic properties of proteins is a fundamental challenge for biophysical research since they regulate cellular metabolism and therefore are the key to understanding the uncontrolled mechanisms and cellular transformations underlying the development of tumors.
The advanced methods of biophysics like synchrotron and free electron laser, which have been exploited by the researchers involved in the project, allow to produce technological advances in various fields ranging from pharmacology to nanotechnology, such as the design of innovative drugs for drug delivery.
For example, researchers have recently identified ferritin as an excellent candidate for the transport of anticancer drugs: this protein assembles and breaks down just like legos and naturally attaches to the cancer cells. "If we encapsulate anticancer drugs inside it - explains Beatrice Avallone - the ferritin will act like a Trojan horse inside the cells, opening and releasing the drug".
X-Probe is an "Innovative Training Network" funded by the European Commission under the Marie Skłodowska Curie actions and conducts research into excellence and education. The project, coordinated by Sapienza and its spin-off MoLiRom, involves biochemists, structural and physical biologists from other universities, research institutions, large European infrastructures, pharmaceutical industries and small biotechnology companies.
"Our purpose - says Beatrice Vallone - is to convert knowledge and ideas into products and services for society".
The project includes:
- Sapienza Università di Roma (Coordinator– Department of Biochemical Sciences)
- MoLiRom (SME ex Sapienza spin-off )
- EuXFEL Free European Electron Laser of Hamburg
- European Synchrotron ESRF
- AstraZeneca Big Pharma Sweden/UK
- Sincrotrone SLS - Paul Scherrer Institut (Helvetic Confederation)
- CNRS Rennes, France
- Goteborg University, Sweden
- Synchrotron Svedere MaxIV
- Xtal Concepts (SME ex Uni Hamburg spin-off)