The GPCR Consortium, an international nonprofit collaboration that comprises academic research institutes in the U.S. and China and major pharma companies around the world, has announced Novo Nordisk and Merck as new members. The companies join Amgen, Sanofi and Ono in the GPCR Consortium. The research funded by the GPCR Consortium currently is conducted at the Bridge Institute at the University of Southern California, Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica and the iHuman Institute at ShanghaiTech University.
Launched officially last October, the GPCR Consortium is the largest pre-competitive research effort to explore G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) to improve drug discovery and development. GPCRs are highly valued as drug targets but poorly understood mechanistically. The GPCR Consortium's goal is to comparatively study the structure and function of 200 human GPCRs and help design better drugs. With 826 human GPCRs known today, this super family of proteins is involved in regulating a broad range of human physiology and disease, from taste to cancer.
"We believe that additional high-resolution structural information can provide new information about how GPCRs work and greatly aid the design of new drug candidates targeting these receptors," said Michael Hanson, Ph.D., president, GPCR Consortium. "With our two newest additions, Novo Nordisk and Merck, we are close to fulfilling our goal of eight pharma members, which will allow us to expand our knowledge of GPCRs. The compounds these companies have from internal discovery efforts are critical in unlocking new insights into receptor structure and function."
Through the GPCR Consortium, pharma members participate in groundbreaking research in the GPCR field and complement their discovery efforts. The GPCR Consortium has initially prioritized solving the structures of GPCRs involved in diabetes, cancer and mental disorders. The GPCR consortium is data-centric, with the primary objective being dissemination of protein structural coordinates, reagents and supporting data to both consortium members and the broader scientific community. All research outputs, such as three-dimensional structures of GPCRs and constructs, will be compiled and placed in the public domain.
"Of the 826 known human GPCRs, today we only have structures of 26," said Peter Kurtzhals, head of global research, Novo Nordisk. "The GPCR Consortium has created a unique opportunity to bring together the complementary skill sets and resources of pharmaceutical companies and academic research centers to study 200 additional human GPCRs, relevant to human disease and therapeutic intervention, in an organized and targeted fashion."
"Merck has a proud history of pioneering discoveries in GPCR structure and function through collaborations with leading academic scientists," said John Hunter, Ph.D., vice president and head of pharmacology, Merck Research Laboratories. "We believe the GPCR consortium provides a strong platform to facilitate pharma and academic collaboration to advance understanding of this therapeutically important class of membrane-bound proteins."