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Official blog of CDR at University of Helsinki

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At the Centre for Drug Research (CDR), University of Helsinki, Dr. Alex Bunker leads the Computational Nanomedicine Group. In his research, he applies molecular modelling as a tool in nanoscale drug delivery research, known as "nanomedicine". A particular focus of his group is the PEGylated liposome, and he has modelled its surface in the bloodstream with molecular dynamics simulation. The same way that a map can be used to represent a country, he and his team have simulated a flat slab of the membrane of the liposome.


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In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that human genes cannot be patented because they are "products of nature." This sets an important precedent for the biotech industry, and especially those organizations engaged in diagnostics based on naturally occuring human gene sequences. For example, Myriad Genetics (the company which developed the groundbreaking genetic testing for BRCA mutations linked to cancer) has had 5 of their patents invalidated as a result of this ruling.

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Research project: Bioconjugated polymeric nanomaterials for industrial applications

Controlled synthesis and self-assembly of polymer-based bioconjugates will provide  broad array of novel biomaterials for industrial applications (drug delivery, molecular imaging, diagnostics, sensors, cell biological research tools). Despite its vast potential, the technology of bioconjugated polymers and nano materials is an under-developed nanotechnology field in Finland that needs to be improved. The project will generate an industrially applicable technology platform of bioconjugated polymeric nanostructures. The research involves versatile synthesis and testing of nanomaterial libraries. The program will be carried out in close collaboration with industrial partners, and special attention is paid to the generation of relevant intellectual property. The project will also be linked to the academic community in Finland, beyond the immediate project participants. This project will generate a platform of new polymer-based bioconjugated nanomaterials and relevant test methods for industrial applications. Companies from various fields are integral participants in the project, and the CDR is also participating through the research activities of Professor Arto Urtti.

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The state of pharmaceutical protein production is ever changing. After CDR published the review on the use of cell free protein synthesis for the production of pharmaceutical proteins (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378517312003304) sutro biopharma has gone ahead and started to cash in on the promise of these exciting techniques.

Investments by Skyline Ventures, Lilly Ventures, Amgen Ventures, SV Life Sciences and Alta Partners has led to several impressive licensing agreements. A collaboration with Celgene Corporation Sutro will design and develop novel antibody drug conjugates (ADCs) and bispecific antibodies for two undisclosed targets and to manufacture a proprietary Celgene antibody.  If all programs are successful, the deal could be worth over $500 million to Sutro. In addition Sutro biopharma will collaborate with Sanofi Pasteur on a Novel Production Approach for Vaccine Candidates.

Sutro Biopharma uses E. coli cell lysates from strains developed in Stanford university in the James Swartz research group. However, new technologies based on deriving lysate from fermentable protozoan leishmania strains has gained interest for the production of pharmaceutical proteins.

For example at the prestigious centre for cellular and molecular platforms (C-CAMP), bangalore (India), leishmania strains are currently implemented for their high throughput screening platforms. This is the first research group in India who will systematically do research on CFPS, and co-develop valuable research tools.

Collaboration between CDR in Finland and C-CAMP in India has started to produce, screen and further develop biobased drugs by use of cell free protein synthesis. This will bring a novel production and screening tool for pharmaceutical proteins to Europe and we expect it to open up many new projects in the near future.

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