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Dec 04, 2014
 |  BC Innovations  |  Cover Story

GPCRs' grand plans

In a move to expand tenfold the number of known 3D structures of the highly druggable class of GPCRs, Amgen Inc., Ono Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. and Sanofi have teamed up with three academic organizations to create the GPCR Consortium-a precompetitive alliance to build an open-source repository of GPCR structures. The consortium could fill a hole left by the termination of the NIH-backed Protein Structure Initiative that until March constituted the main public effort to characterize GPCR structures.

Raymond Stevens-who started the consortium-told SciBX in late November that Novo Nordisk A/S will also join the group. He expects to sign up another pharma before year end, and he said that the consortium hopes to reach a total of eight industry members.

The academic centers involved-the iHuman Institute at ShanghaiTech University, the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica and the University of Southern California-will conduct the research on GPCR structures and make the results and supporting data available in the public domain. Financial terms for the consortium were not disclosed.

Stevens is founding director of the iHuman Institute and provost professor of biological sciences and chemistry at the University of Southern California. He is also founder of Receptos Inc. and RuiYi Inc.

The goal is to elucidate the 3D structures of a large number of GPCRs and generate high-resolution pictures that can be used to explore how the receptors work and aid the design of new compounds. The consortium's initial focus will be on diabetes, cancer and mental disorders based on the industry members' input. But, according to Stevens, there is no limit on therapeutic areas, and new consortium members may have different interests.

Stevens said that with 8 companies on board, the consortium believes it will be able to study at least 200 GPCRs.

Michael Hanson, president of the...

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