A new approach to developing treatments for 'undruggable' diseases uses bacteria to produce naturally occurring molecules
Spotted: Most conventional drugs work by targeting proteins. However, it turns out that around 80 per cent of all proteins lack easy-to-find areas where therapeutics, such as small molecules, can bind. In pharmacology, these proteins are considered ‘undruggable’. This makes it extremely difficult to produce drugs to fight diseases caused by imbalances in these proteins. A wave of biotech companies, armed with new technology, is beginning to tackle this problem. One of these is Terrapeutics.
Terrapeutics has developed a drug discovery platform that uses bacteria to develop new treatments. The technology screens and selects microorganisms that produce molecule inhibitors targeted against specific proteins. Essentially, the platform uses naturally occurring organisms to develop a ‘library of compounds’.
The company describes its system as challenging “the resident bacteria in their natural environment so that its community’s survival depends on the synthesis of an inhibitor to a drug target of our choice”. The technology then rapidly identifies the microbes and the molecules they produce. In other words, they present different microorganisms with target proteins in such a way that the microorganisms need to find a way to bind to the protein in order to survive. The molecules they produce are then isolated and tested for effectiveness.
Terrapeautics is not the only company working to develop novel drug treatments. Springwise has also spotted bio-based drugs that could transform mental health care, and the accidental discovery of a possible vaccine for rheumatoid arthritis.
Written By: Lisa Magloff