Structural biology and drug discovery

Structural Biology in Drug Development: A Technical Perspective

Hetal Marble, PhD

Head of Commercial, Immuto Scientific

In therapidly accelerating world of drug development, finding innovative solutions to treat various diseases is a constant challenge. Structural biology is helping give rise to these innovations — a fascinating field that focuses on studying the molecular structure of biological systems.

It uses techniques such as X-ray crystallography, cryo-electron microscopy, or, in the case of Immuto, hydroxyl radical footprinting and mass spectrometry to determine the three-dimensional structure of proteins, nucleic acids, and other biomolecules.

In drug development, structural biology is crucial for understanding how drugs interact with biological targets and designing new drugs.

Technology

Source: Immuto Scientific

Below, we briefly explore how structural biology is revolutionizing drug development by providing crucial insights into the interactions between medications and their biological targets. We’ll also touch on how cutting-edge techniques are enabling researchers to identify and validate drug targets, optimize lead compounds, and design more effective and safer drugs.

How structural biology is enabling modern drug development

In drug development, structural biology is crucial in understanding how drugs interact with biological targets and designing new drugs. 

Below, we’ve identified and briefly unpacked some of the ways structural biology is enabling drug development today.

1. Target identification and validation

Structural biology can be used to identify new targets for drug development. By determining the three-dimensional structure of proteins and other biomolecules, researchers can identify potential sites for therapeutic ligand binding and validate these as promising targets for drug development. 

Immuto's platform identifies these targets using hydroxyl radical footprinting and mass spectrometry.

2. Site-based affinity and endogenous ligand binding

Researchers are also using structural biology to learn more about how drugs interact with biological targets by deciphering the structures of complicated protein-ligand complexes. These insights are then turned back into inputs to improve the design of new drugs, ensuring that drugs bind to their targets as efficiently as possible.

3. Lead optimization

Once a target has been discovered and the protein's three-dimensional structure has been established, researchers can create small molecules that fit into specific binding pockets. This enhances the possibility of successful interaction with the target. 

This is where Immuto's platform provides incredible value, as it uses hydroxyl radical footprinting and mass spectrometry to determine the precise location of these binding pockets.

4. Rational drug design

Researchers can develop new treatments that are more effective or have fewer adverse effects by learning how drugs interact with biological targets by figuring out the structure of drug-target complexes (rational drug design). This rational drug design is particularly crucial for developing treatments that are both effective and safe.

5. Assessing drug resistance

The assessment of drug resistance can also be done using structure. Researchers can learn more about the mechanisms underlying drug resistance by analyzing the structural properties of proteins resistant to currently available drugs. This knowledge can be used to create new drugs that are less likely to face resistance. 

Immuto's technology is essential to this procedure since it enables scientists to pinpoint the exact structure of these proteins. Insights into the molecular architecture of biological systems and how medications interact with them are crucial to structural biology, making it an integral part of the drug discovery process. Structural biologists can aid in developing and creating novel drugs and optimizing already existing drugs by using techniques like Immuto's PLIMB platform.

(If you're keen on developing revolutionary drugs, keep an eye on Immuto's exciting structural biology research.)

The key takeaway

Structural biology plays a crucial role in drug development by providing insights into the molecular architecture of biological systems and how medications interact with them. This knowledge enables researchers to identify and validate drug targets, optimize lead compounds, design more effective and safer drugs, and assess drug resistance.

Immuto Scientific's platform, utilizing hydroxyl radical footprinting and mass spectrometry, significantly contributes to these advancements in drug discovery.

Resources and next steps

Download our free white paperHydroxyl Radical Protein Footprinting: A Breakthrough Technique for Epitope Mapping—to see exactly how your development lifecycle stands to gain from the latest techniques.

Explore our technology to learn more about how we’re revolutionizing the drug discovery process and helping our partners tackle previously incurable diseases, and promoting a healthier world. Contact us to learn more and schedule a discovery session.

AUTHOR BIO

Hetal Marble, PhD

Head of Commercial, Immuto Scientific

Dr. Hetal Marble is a seasoned leader in the life science industry with experience in product management, companion diagnostics, biomarker development, business development, and strategic marketing. She holds a Ph.D. from Brown University and is the holder of two U.S. patents. Currently, she is the Chair of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the Association for Molecular Pathology and a member of the 2022 Women in Bio cohort of Emerging Executives. She is also a contributing author for a book on precision medicine being published by the Mayo Clinic Press in October 2022.

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