Pradip K. Bhatnagar, Ph.D.
Former President & Head, Daiichi Sankyo Life Science Research Centre, India
Strategies for Diseases/Target Selection for Drug Discovery and a Multi-Targeted Approach to Metabolic Disorder
Drug discovery and development is a high risk and expensive undertaking. Although, technologies, such as, bioinformatics, genomics, high throughput screening and computer-aided design have helped identify targets, biomarkers, lead candidates and reduced the time required for advancing an idea from bench to clinic, but it still takes 10-12 years and costs approximately one billion dollars to bring a drug to market globally. Therefore, it is imperative that the strategies to reduce the risk and increase efficiency are carefully selected. In this presentation I would discuss strategies for selecting potential diseases, targets and provide an example of multi-targeted approach to metabolic disorder.
Kal Ramnarayan, Ph.D.
Co-founder President & Chief Scientific Officer, Sapient Discovery, San Diego, CA, USA
A cost-effective approach to Protein Structure-guided Drug Discovery: Aided by Bioinformatics, Chemoinformatics and computational chemistry
With the mapping of the human genome completed almost a decade ago, efforts are still underway to understand the gene products (i.e., proteins) in the human biological and disease pathways. Deciphering such information is very important for the discovery and development of small molecule drugs as well as protein therapeutics for various human diseases for which no cure exists. As an example, with more than 500 members, the kinase family of protein targets continues to be an important and attractive class for drug discovery. While how many of the members in this family are actually druggable is still to be established, there are several ongoing efforts on this class of proteins across a broad spectrum of disease categories. Even though in general the protein structural topology might looks similar, there are issues with respect selectivity of identified small molecule inhibitors when, the lead molecule discovery is carried out at the ATP binding site. As an added complexity, allosteric modulators are needed for some of the members, but the actual site for such modulation on the protein target can not resolved with uncertainty. In this presentation we will describe a bioinformatics and computational based platform for small molecule discovery for protein targets that are involved in protein-protein interactions as well as targets like kinases and phosphatases. We will describe a computational approach in which we have used an informatics based platform with several hundred kinases to sort through in silico and identify inhibitors that are likely to be highly selective in the lead generation phase. We will discuss the implication of this approach on the drug discovery of the kinase and phosphatase classes in general and independent of the disease category.
R. Manjunath, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Dept of Biochemistry, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, India
REGULATION OF THE MHC COMPLEX AND HLA SOLUBILISATION BY THE FLAVIVIRUS, JAPANESE ENCEPHALITIS VIRUS
Viral encephalitis caused by Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) and West Nile Virus (WNV) is a mosquito-borne disease that is prevalent in different parts of India and other parts of South East Asia. JEV is a positive single stranded RNA virus that belongs to the Flavivirus genus of the family Flaviviridae. The genome of JEV is about 11 kb long and codes for a polyprotein which is cleaved by both host and viral encoded proteases to form 3 structural and 7 non-structural proteins. It is a neurotropic virus which infects the central nervous system (CNS) and causes death predominantly in newborn children and young adults. JEV follows a zoonotic life-cycle involving mosquitoes and vertebrate, chiefly pigs and ardeid birds, as amplifying hosts. Humans are infected when bitten by an infected mosquito and are dead end hosts. Its structural, pathological, immunological and epidemiological aspects have been well studied. After entry into the host following a mosquito bite, JEV infection leads to acute peripheral neutrophil leucocytosis in the brain and leads to elevated levels of type I interferon, macrophage-derived chemotactic factor, RANTES,TNF-α and IL-8 in the serum and cerebrospinal fluid.
Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) molecules play a very important role in adaptive immune responses. Along with various classical MHC class I molecules, other non-classical MHC class I molecules play an important role in modulating innate immune responses. Our lab has shown the activation of cytotoxic T-cells (CTLs) during JEV infection and CTLs recognize non-self peptides presented on MHC molecules and provide protection by eliminating infected cells. However, along with proinflammatory cytokines such as TNFα, they may also cause immunopathology within the JEV infected brain. Both JEV and WNV, another related flavivirus have been shown to increase MHC class I expression. Infection of human foreskin fibroblast cells (HFF) by WNV results in upregulation of HLA expression. Data from our lab has also shown that JEV infection upregulates classical as well as nonclassical (class Ib) MHC antigen expression on the surface of primary mouse brain astrocytes and mouse embryonic fibroblasts.
There are no reports that have discussed the expression of these molecules on other cells like endothelial and astrocyte that play an important role in viral invasion in humans. We have studied the expression of human classical class I molecules HLA-A, -B, -C and the non-classical HLA molecules, HLA-E as well as HLA-F in immortalized human brain microvascular endothelial cells (HBMEC), human endothelial cell line (ECV304), human glioblastoma cell line (U87MG) and human foreskin fibroblast cells (HFF). Nonclassical MHC molecules such as mouse Qa-1b and its human homologue, HLA-E have been shown to be the ligand for the inhibitory NK receptor, NKG2A/CD94 and may bridge innate and adaptive immune responses. We show that JEV infection of HBMEC and ECV 304 cells upregulates the expression of HLA-A, and –B antigens as well as HLA-E and HLA-F. Increased expression of total HLA-E upon JEV infection was also observed in other human cell lines as well like, human amniotic epithelial cells, AV-3, FL and WISH cells. Further, we show for the first time that soluble HLA-E (sHLA-E) was released from infected ECV and HBMECs. In contrast, HFF cells showed only upregulation of cell-surface HLA-E expression while U87MG, a human glioblastoma cell line neither showed any cell-surface induction nor its solubilization. This shedding of sHLA-E was found to be dependent on matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) and an important MMP, MMP-9 was upregulated during JEV infection. Treatment with IFNγ resulted in the shedding of sHLA-E from ECV as well as U87MG but not from HFF cells. Also, sHLA-E was shed upon treatment with IFNβ and both IFNβ and TNFα, when present together caused an additive increase in the shedding of sHLA-E. HLA-E is an inhibitory ligand for CD94/NKG2A receptor of Natural Killer cells. Thus, MMP mediated solubilization of HLA-E from infected endothelial cells may have important implications in JEV pathogenesis including its ability to compromise the blood brain barrier.
Andrey Panteleyev, Ph.D.
Vice Chair, Division of Molecular Biology, NBICS Centre-Kurchatov Institute, Moscow, Russia
The system of PAS proteins (HIF and AhR) as an interface between environment and skin homeostasis
Regulation of normal skin functions as well as etiology of many skin diseases are both tightly linked to the environmental impact. Nevertheless, molecular aspects of skin-environment communication and mechanisms coordinating skin response to a plurality of environmental stressors remain poorly understood.
Our studies along with the work of other groups have identified the family of PAS dimeric transcription factors as an essential sensory and regulatory component of communication between skin and the environment. This protein family comprises a number of hypoxia-induced factors (HIF-alpha proteins), aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR), AhR nuclear translocator (ARNT), and several proteins implicated in control of rhythmic processes (Clock, Period, and Bmal proteins). Together, various PAS proteins (and first of all ARNT – as the central dimerization partner in the family) control such pivotal aspects of cell physiology as drug/xenobiotic metabolism, hypoxic and UV light response, ROS activity, pathogen defense, overall energy balance and breathing pathways.
In his presentation Dr. Panteleyev will focus on the role of ARNT activity and local hypoxia in control of keratinocyte differentiation and cornification. His recent work revealed that ARNT negatively regulates expression of late differentiation genes through modulation of amphiregulin expression and downstream alterations in activity of EGFR pathway. All these effects are highly dependent on epigenetic mechanisms such as histone deacetylation. Characterisation of hypoxia as a key microenvironmental factor in the skin and the role of HIF pathway in control of dermal vasculature and epidermal functions is another major focus of Dr. Panteleyev’s presentation.
In general, the studies of Dr. Panteleyev’s laboratory provide an insight into the PAS-dependent maintenance of skin homeostasis and point to the potential role of these proteins in pathogenesis of environmentally-modulated skin diseases such as barrier defects, desquamation abnormalities, psoriasis, etc.
The global healthcare scene of which the pharmaceutical industry and its products are integral components is today at the cross roads. The high and unaffordable costs of drug research with estimates of over 1 billion dollars for every new drug discovered and developed, the very low success rates, the high degree of obsolescence due to undesirable adverse drug reactions, the decline in the development pipeline of new drugs, patent expiries leading to generic competition and the public’s disillusionment with use of chemicals for human consumption as drugs have all significantly contributed to the problems of this lifeline industry. The strategy adopted by the large R&D based Corporations to get bigger and bigger through mergers and acquisitions to improve cost-effectiveness and productivity of R&D has so far not worked effectively. Consequently, one of the recent trends in healthcare, articulated by many experts is to look for alternate or even complementary approaches to reduce the impact of rising costs of drugs on healthcare. Various new strategies for drug discovery such as the use of Natural Products especially medicinal plants are being actively pursued by healthcare planners and providers. Side by side, traditional systems of medicine whether from the oriental countries or the western nations are also having a serious relook to understand their usefulness in healthcare. To achieve its legitimate position in the healthcare scenario, it is essential to scientifically validate their claimed utility through appropriate and systematic research efforts including pre-clinical and clinical studies. In addition to their own use as medicines, knowledge on the Indian Traditional Medicines can be used as a platform for new drug discovery. The huge potential for carrying out systematic R&D programs for new Drug Discovery based on natural products and possible strategies to realise them in the coming decades will be explained in this presentation.
Ramani A. Aiyer, Ph.D., MBA
Principal, Shasta BioVentures, San Jose, CA, USA
New Drug R&D in India: Challenges & Opportunities
New drug discovery and development has become a global endeavor, with Western big pharmaceutical companies farming out more and more chemistry and biology research to Asia, particularly India and China. During the last decade, several Indian pharmaceutical companies have embarked on ambitious R&D programs, with slow but steady progress in developing new chemical / molecular entities. The Indian government has also made a strong commitment to promote innovation and entrepreneurship in the biotechnology sector. The first part of the talk will focus on a case study showing the entire process of discovery and development of a new drug recently launched for Rheumatoid Arthritis. We will then address the challenges of conducting innovative R&D in India and actions necessary to overcome them. The second part of the talk will make the case for developing Ayurvedic drug formulations for the Western / Global markets, again using the example of Rheumatoid Arthritis (Aamavaata). Ayurveda takes a holistic approach to disease diagnosis and therapy based on interactions among body type (prakriti), tri-doshas (three body humors), sapta-dhatus (seven tissues) and malas (excretions). The drugs prescribed are usually herbo-mineral formulations comprising multiple medicinal plants and / or metals. The manufacturing processes date back to Ayurvedic texts several thousand years old, and are compiled in the Ayurvedic Pharmacopeia. Also, the treatment modalities and drug formulations are “personalized” to fit different patient types, based on the holistic diagnoses mentioned earlier. There is a tremendous need to establish a sound basis for Ayurvedic drug discovery R&D for the modern world. We must find a scientific and ethical way to leverage the vast body of anecdotal and possibly retrospective data on patients undergoing Ayurvedic treatment. Combined with in vitro and in vivo biological data on Ayurvedic herbo-mineral formulations, the adoption of stringent manufacturing practices, and designing sound clinical trials to establish the safety and efficacy, India has a golden opportunity to expand the reach of Ayurvedic drugs into Western / Global medical practice.