Teaming up to understand single-molecule science

Trio of partners seek a deeper understanding of biology and early-stage drug development

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AMSTERDAM—A new partnership between LUMICKS, AstraZeneca and the University of Cambridge’s Biochemistry Department has led to the formation of a new “Center of Excellence for Dynamic Single-Molecule Analysis for Accelerated Drug Discovery and Biology,” reportedly the first of its kind in the world. LUMICKS has installed one of its C-Trap optical tweezers-fluorescence microscopes at the University of Cambridge, which can now be utilized by all three entities in the quest for a deeper understanding of biology and early-stage drug development.
The LUMICKS C-Trap microscope is, the partners say, a groundbreaking technology that combines optical tweezers, confocal microscopy or STED nanoscopy and an advanced microfluidics system in a truly integrated and correlated way. Using the C-Trap correlated optical tweezers-fluorescence microscope allows for dynamic single-molecule analysis, enabling visualization and manipulation of molecular interactions as they would occur within the body. The most promising potential would be to have a clear proven case of breakthrough insight in the mechanistic details of the specific biological mechanism of a drug target protein, and revealing of the exact mode of action of the drug leads, all at the single-molecule level.
“C-Trap is a unique and powerful tool that could help us unravel precise molecular mechanisms of diseases and the mode of action of lead compounds,” said Dr. Geoffrey Holdgate, principal scientist for discovery sciences at AstraZeneca. “We are excited to be the first pharmaceutical company to use this technology and look forward to working with LUMICKS to validate the potential of single-molecule analysis to enhance the drug discovery process.”
The collaboration began as LUMICKS was interested in making the leap from academia to the pharmaceutical marketplace. They recognized a growing need in drug discovery to understand the detailed mechanisms underlying diseases and potential therapies because of the complexity of biological processes at the molecular level. But according to the company, existing technologies (such as cryoEM and X-ray crystallography) did not offer the capacity to study the biological mechanisms on the molecular scale and in real time. They could reveal the structure of the molecules involved or the bulk properties of the molecular actors, but could not analyze the interactions between proteins and DNA/RNA in order to understand their complex multistep pathways and how drugs influence them.
“Establishing the first-ever Center of Excellence in Cambridge is an important step in introducing the power of dynamic single-molecule analysis to the biomedical and pharmaceutical research communities,” explained Olivier Heyning, CEO of LUMICKS. “Our tools enable scientists and pharmacologists to analyze the mechanistic details of processes underlying health and disease, with or without a small-molecule drug lead being identified. This paves the way for the design of novel, more efficient strategies for highly targeted drug discovery, and the selection of higher-quality drug leads.”
This unique partnership aims to bring LUMICKS clear insights into how they can position C-Trap to bring the most value to the drug discovery process. In collaboration with top researchers in academia and pharmaceuticals, the goal is to improve human health by unlocking the power of Dynamic Single-Molecule analysis (DSM) to provide unparalleled insight into the fundamental cause of disease and potential for drug optimization. The collaborators hope to broaden the power of DSM by applying fundamental academic research to more applied research and development projects within biotech and pharma.
According to Heyning, “Our technologies hold the promise to drastically accelerate target identification and lead screening, thereby catalyzing the overall drug development process while leading to more efficient compounds. This partnership marks the beginning of utilizing DSM in the pharmaceutical industry. Having made this first step with AstraZeneca and the University of Cambridge, we anticipate to gain a better understanding on what are the current challenges in drug discovery, which areas our DSM analysis technologies can impact the most and how our future developments can benefit this field further.”

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