Structural Biology and its Translation into Practice and Business: My Experience
Presenter: Robert Huber
Published: July 2014
Age: 18-22 and upwards
Views: 817 views
As a student in the early 1960s, I had the privilege to attend winter seminars organized by my mentor, W. Hoppe, and by M. Perutz, which took place in a small guesthouse in the Bavarian-Austrian Alps. The entire community of a handful of protein crystallographers assembled in a room which served as living and dining room and as auditorium for the lectures. Today structural biologists organize large congresses with thousands of attendants and there exist many hundreds of laboratories specialized in this field. It appears to dominate biology and biochemistry very visibly if we count covers in scientific journals displaying macromolecular structures. Structural biology was successful, because it was recognized that understanding biological phenomena at the molecular and atomic level requires that we see these molecules. Structural biology revealed the structure of genes and their basic mechanism of regulation, the mechanism of enzymes’ function, the structural basis of immune diversity, the mechanisms of energy production in cells by photosynthesis and its conversion into energy-rich chemical compounds and organic material, the mechanism that makes muscle work, the architecture of viruses and multi-enzyme complexes, and many more. New methods had a profound impact on the development of structural biology. Methods seemed to become available in cadence with the growing complexity of the problems and newly discovered methods brought biological problems within reach for researchers, a co-evolutionary process of the development of methods and answerable problems. An important additional incentive for structural biology came from its potential application for drug design and development by the use of knowledge of drug receptors at the atomic level. The commercial interest in application spurred this direction of research enormously. My lecture will start out with the history of protein crystallography and describe the major factors contributing to its development, illustrated with examples contributing to our understanding of the physical and chemical basis behind biological phenomena. I then will let you share my experience with the foundation and development of two biotech companies with different business models, but both based on basic academic research in structural biology: Proteros (www.Proteros.com) offers enabling technology services for pharmaceutical and crop science companies imbedding all steps of the workflow that molecular and structural biology can provide, and commands and uses its platform for the generation of leads from identified targets to in vivo proof of concept (PoC). Suppremol (www.Suppremol.com) specializes in the development of novel immunoregulatory therapeutics for the treatment of autoimmune diseases on the basis a recombinant, soluble, non-glycosylated version of the human Fc gamma receptor IIB.