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Otago secures $1.75m to develop protein technology

Monday 26 November 2007

Otago secures $1.75m to develop protein technology

University of Otago researchers have gained major funding to develop technology that could significantly boost efforts to discover new drugs to treat disease.

The Foundation for Research Science and Technology’s International Investment Opportunity Fund has granted the researchers $1.75m over three years to develop a new membrane protein expression technology platform.

The work builds on world-leading fungal protein research led by Professor Richard Cannon of the Faculty of Dentistry. Group members include Department of Oral Sciences colleagues Kyoko Niimi, Erwin Lamping and Brian Monk.

Professor Cannon’s team will use the funding to generate fundamental knowledge of membrane proteins, and a ‘Pacific Rim’ partnership with researchers in Japan and the United States. It will also underpin the spin out of a biotechnology company.

“Membrane proteins are important molecules as they represent around 70 per cent of all drug targets, yet they are notoriously difficult to ‘express’, or produce, in cells and study,” says Professor Cannon.

He says the group has already used the technology to express unprecedented amounts of fungal proteins responsible for drug resistance and also novel fungal drug targets.

“The award is very exciting because it will enable us to develop the system for the expression of a variety of membrane proteins. We can then express important human and plant drug targets and molecules responsible for drug resistance.”

This technology can also be adopted by other research groups or the pharmaceutical industry, to study these proteins and discover new drugs, he says.

The FRST funding recognises the Otago group’s important international research collaborations that will support the project, and the commercial potential of the new technology, he says.

The University’s commercialisation arm, Otago Innovation Ltd, is looking after developing this potential.


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