Ask an expert at
Drug Discovery 2021:
The importance of
structural biology in tackling infection

Adrian Goldman is a professor in Structural Biology in the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Science at the University of Helsinki. His research focuses on connecting biomolecular structures to their function, disease and drug design.

With the global pandemic impacting millions of lives over the last 18 months, it is no surprise that infection biology forms a key theme at this ELRIG’s Drug Discovery 2021, (taking place on the 19th and 20th October this year). We managed to catch up with Professor Adrian Goldman who is chairing the session, along with Dr David Pallin, to understand why structural biology is playing such a key role.

The importance of membrane proteins in treating disease and infection

Professor Goldman’s research focuses on the structural characterisation of membrane protein systems. Membrane proteins are of interest as they are the targets of more than 50% of current marketed drugs. But what makes membrane proteins particularly good drug targets? Quite simply the functions they perform: the proteins are involved in the establishment of electrochemical gradients, mediate self- and non-self-interactions and control the passage of molecules and responses to extracellular signals.

“A better understanding of membrane proteins will provide new strategies to face bacterial resistance to antibiotics,” says Prof. Goldman. “As bacteria can develop membrane channels to pump out antibiotics and prevent their efficacy, a better interpretation of the bacterial membrane permeability will provide new solutions to undermine these resistance mechanisms”.

Prof. Goldman’s lab has been studying Plasmodium spp.: protist parasites that cause malaria. “This is a disease that still presents a great drain on many national economies. The parasites involved are characterised by peculiar membrane enzymes called pyrophosphatases that are essential for their viability and infectivity. As they are absent in humans, they have huge potential as drug targets for treating Plasmodium related diseases”.

To hear more about the latest developments in this area, come along to Drug Discovery 2021 at the ACC, Liverpool. Register now to secure your place!

The challenges with studying membrane proteins

When asked about the challenges of studying such membrane proteins Prof. Goldman shared that “Membrane proteins are generally expressed in very low amounts, and they often do not retain their active shape once purified. Even when resuspended in detergents or lipids, they are easily degraded or destabilised from their native conformations. However, steady advances in techniques have made it possible to study these difficult molecules in lower amounts and with more spatial and temporal precision than ever before”.

DD21: First-class science, cutting-edge technology and valuable networking

This year, Drug Discovery is back in the in-person format you know and love. With COVID measures in place, our community of academic and industry professionals can network, learn from each other, and discover cutting-edge science and new technologies safely together.

Prof. Goldman first learned of Drug Discovery while collaborating with a group of colleagues who told him about the event and quickly came to see the value it brings to the life science community. “It offers a much broader scope than most conferences – being of high value to academics and industry professionals alike. It is perfect for scientists interested in learning about the latest findings and novel tools that could advance their research. This year, I am delighted to be able to share my studies with a broader audience and hope to see old colleagues and make new connections there,” concluded Prof. Goldman.

So why not register to find out more about this important topic? Register now to secure your place at this free-to-attend event!

Don’t miss out. Drug Discovery 2021 – ELRIG.