The de novo design of particular protein structures would be useful for pharmaceutical and other uses, but scientists have only recently begun to make headway in understanding the biophysical parameters necessary to achieve rational protein design. Xencor Inc. has technology called protein design automation (PDA) that could enable such design using high performance computing to screen the universe of protein sequences for those that will fold into a desired structure.

It has been known for some time that the primary structure of a protein, the linear sequence of its amino acids, determines its three-dimensional structure and thus its function. But scientists have been unable to predict how a given primary structure folds in three dimensions.