The generation of high-resolution pictures of hundreds of medically important proteins known as G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) will be the goal of a new international partnership. Called the GPCR Consortium, the nonprofit initiative brings together pharmaceutical companies and research institutes from three continents to advance GPCR research for drug development.
The human body is controlled by 826 GPCRs, which are involved in a wide variety of human physiology and are implicated in many diseases. As a drug target, GPCRs are highly valuable but mechanistically poorly understood and with limited structural information that could greatly aid in finding new drug candidates.
The GPCR Consortium was started by professor Raymond Stevens, who is focused on the structure and function of GPCRs and human cell signaling, and is coordinated by Dr. Michael Hanson, a leader in GPCR structural biology. All research outputs, such as three-dimensional structures of GPCRs and constructs, will be compiled and placed in the public domain. The consortium is data-centric, with the primary objective being dissemination of protein structural coordinates, reagents and supporting data to both the consortium members and the broader scientific community.
Amgen, Sanofi and Japan’s Ono Pharmaceutical are the founding industry members of the GPCR Consortium. The research currently is planned to be conducted at three academic sites: iHuman Institute at ShanghaiTech University; Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences; and the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. The GPCR Consortium hopes to attract up to five additional industry members to achieve the initiative's goal of determining structures of 200 of the 826 known human GPCRs, prioritized in disease areas that initially include diabetes, cancer and mental disorders.
"Industry and academic consortia, like the not-for-profit Structural Genomics Consortium, are becoming a more common model to support scientific research on the international scale, including the open exchange of data and reagents, including compounds," said Stevens, founding director of the iHuman Institute at ShanghaiTech University and provost professor of biology and chemistry at University of Southern California. "By working together, we can maximize the impact of our research on human health and disease, while providing a means to support early-stage basic research and bring together academic and industry scientists in a productive working relationship."
"The academic groups involved in the consortium have published both the first human GPCR structure and the majority of GPCR structure-function and discovery data, including structures from the major classes of the GPCR family," said Dr. Michael Hanson, president of the GPCR Consortium. "The importance of this family of proteins for human health cannot be overstated as communication with the environment is a hallmark of higher functioning organisms and GPCRs play a central role in this process."