Discovery by Slovenian scientists could accelerate drug development

Ljubljana, 4 October - Slovenian scientists have described a new method for fast, simple and reliable profiling of protease, an important enzyme group, a discovery that has the potential to accelerate and simplify drug development.

Protease are enzymes crucial for health in that improper functioning is associated with many diseases. Protease inhibitors consequently represent a significant share of drug production and are the subject of study by academic researchers as well as pharma and biotech companies, according to one of the researchers, Marko Fonović.

Fast and reliable tests of the activity of target proteases are necessary for the development of these inhibitors, but this requires precisely knowing their specifics. Currently available methods are time consuming and complex, often failing to produce sufficiently reliable results.

Researchers from the Jožef Stefan Institute and the centre of excellence CIPKeBiP have developed a method called direct in-gel profiling of protease specificity (DIPPS) that enables quick and reliable determination of protease cleavage specificities under a large variety of experimental conditions.

Instead of taking one to two weeks, the new method takes only two days. It is also the only one allowing profiling in extreme conditions such as high temperatures and acidic or alkaline environments.

The study was published in EMBO Journal and featured Robert Vidmar, Matej Vizovišek, Dušan Turk, Boris Turk and Marko Fonović.

The Jožef Stefan Institute said the paper was well received in international scientific circles and a leading global pharma company has already contacted the institute expressing interest in using the method.