A team of scientists from the Massachusetts biomedical community launched a new research institute to expand protein science and enhance drug discovery. Backed by a unique and collaborative combination of public investment and academic philanthropy, The Institute for Protein Innovation (IPI) brings together leaders in academic research, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and biomedical investing to seek new therapies for currently intractable diseases.
The IPI has a threefold mission: develop and share well-validated monoclonal antibodies targeting every extracellular protein in humans; train scientists from academic and industry labs; and create shared core facilities in protein expression, antibody discovery and biophysical analysis. The IPI's resources will also be available to non-affiliated industry and academic investigators. Together with its partners, the IPI will enable worldwide advances in research and drug development, driven by the availability of its open-source antibody library.
"Over the past 20 years, proteins have transformed drug discovery and biomedical research, serving as the targets of almost all drugs and in many cases as therapeutic drugs themselves," said Timothy A. Springer, Ph.D., Latham Family Professor at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children's Hospital and IPI's founder. "Despite their pivotal importance in research and medicine, proteins lag behind DNA and RNA in institutional research support and funding. The IPI fills this gap, providing intellectual capital from academia to empower protein research and pioneer new therapeutics that improve human health."
Central to the IPI mission is the creation of a library of high quality synthetic antibodies, which can be used as tools to enable drug discovery research, and may themselves become therapies for currently intractable diseases.
An important component in all IPI operations is a commitment to transparency. Antibodies that arise from the IPI's work will be validated by the international biomedical community and made widely available for analysis and research. Information related to DNA sequence, protein expression, and functional validation of these reagents will be curated in a web portal accessible to all. By democratizing these data and reagents, and making their source code available for further improvement, the IPI will accelerate the development of new therapeutics and complement the efforts of existing large-scale scientific initiatives such as the Human Cell Atlas.
"Advances in protein science are transforming biomedical discovery, and this field holds the promise to redefine the way we diagnose and treat some of the most devastating diseases," said George Q. Daley, dean of Harvard Medical School. "Bringing our ever-expanding knowledge in proteomics closer to therapeutics is essential. This collaboration is a powerful illustration of the fruitful cross-pollination that occurs when academia, the public and private sectors, philanthropy and biotech come together."
For its first year of operations, the IPI is housed at Harvard Medical School, with plans to obtain long-term laboratory and office space in the Longwood Medical Area later this year. This will place the institute near Harvard Medical School, Boston Children's Hospital, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, and dozens of other world-class research and medical institutions.
In its first year, the IPI also expects to create up to 10 new permanent jobs that will expand to 19 to 20 positions by 2022. In addition to glycoprotein expression and antibody discovery expertise, the IPI will recruit talent and innovators in directed evolution, cell line development and biophysical protein characterization.
"The Institute for Protein Innovation offers the promise for Boston Children's Hospital to develop new therapies for those with devastating diseases, who come to us from around the world," said David A. Williams, M.D., senior vice president and chief scientific officer, Boston Children's Hospital. "Our close relationship, together with Boston Children's own outstanding genomics program, will also enhance the training of the next generation of investigators seeking new treatments of pediatric diseases."