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Researchers found novel route to discover new drug targets

Researchers from the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), Delhi have found a novel route to discover new drug targets and potential drugs.

These new drug targets route and potential drugs are mainly for parasites such as Loa loa nematode (roundworm) and Schistosoma mansoni platyhelminths (flatworm) that cause several diseases.

Why these parasites are dangerous?

  • Both these parasites are the major cause of health burden, particularly in African countries.
  • They have limited treatment options and there is the threat of drug resistance.
  • There also little interest in developing drugs for these diseases by pharmaceutical companies as they do not stand to benefit much commercially.

How it was found out?

  • Researchers first looked at Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRSs) of the two parasites instead of blindly screening molecules, which is expensive and takes a long time.
  • Then they had picked up one of the enzymes that contribute to protein synthesis and validated it as a drugable target.
  • The researchers studied the crystal structure of the enzyme with cladosporin, a very potent compound (drug) that targets these parasites.
  • It revealed how tightly the compound binds within the active site of the enzyme. Thus, this approach of looking at the conserved region of the parasites is direct, quicker and cheaper.

aaRSs: These are vital enzymes that decode genetic information and enable protein translation. This enzyme family has 20 members and each one of enzymes contributes to protein synthesis. Even if one of 20 enzymes is missing then protein synthesis cannot happen.

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Sun Pharma signs deal with ICGEB to develop India’s first dengue vaccine

India’s largest pharmaceutical company Sun Pharma has signed deal with International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) for clinical development Cissampelos pariera (Cipa), India’s first vaccine (drug) for the treatment of dengue.

The partnership between Sun Pharma and ICGEB aims to develop` safe, effective and affordable botanical drug Cipa.

Key Facts

  • Under the deal, Sun Pharma will get access to all the intellectual properties (IP) rights of the drug across 17 countries.
  • ICGEB will establish assay systems for the development of Cipa for the treatment of dengue infection.
  • ICGEB had explored Indian traditional medicine, Ayurveda, to identify plants that could be a source of dengue inhibitory activity
  • In its research it was found that an alcoholic extract prepared from Cissampelos pareira Linn from C. pareira plant inhibits the replication of dengue viruses in living cells in culture.
  • Besides, alcoholic extract showed antipyretic and anti-inflammatory effects and protected mice against dengue infection.

Significance of the deal

India is dengue-endemic resource-poor country representing 50% of the global population estimated to be at risk of dengue virus. This will be for the first time a vaccine developed entirely in India for a vector-borne disease that has been advanced for clinical development in the country. The C. pareira plant may serve as a basic source for the development of an inexpensive herbal formulation against dengue.

About the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB)

  • ICGEB is an international, nonprofit research organization promoted by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). It is part of the United Nations System.
  • It was established as a special project of UNIDO, but it became fully autonomous in 1994 and now counts over 60 Member States.
  • It provides a scientific and educational environment of highest standard and conducts innovative research in life sciences for the benefit of developing countries.
  • It strengthens the research capability of its Members through training and funding programmes and advisory services.
  • It also represents a comprehensive approach to promoting biotechnology internationally.

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