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EU putting EUR 4 million towards UKE project

International chemists to develop therapeutic proteins in bid to raise patient safety

The EU is putting EUR 4 million towards a research project at University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) to improve ways of cleaning therapeutic proteins and training urgently needed experts, a press release said Thursday (October 12, 2017). Tiny changes in the complex molecular structure of cancer cells can occur in the production of modern cancer medication and render it ineffective or dangerous for patients.

New medication to treat cancer

Therapeutic proteins are groups of new, highly-effective medicines to treat cancer patients. The molecules are far bigger than conventional substances and have more complex chemical compositions. Prof. Dr. Hartmut Schlüter, from UKE’s Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine division, said: “During the production of therapeutic proteins, by-products that are chemically very similar to therapeutic proteins are produced in many cases.” However, these by-products are often ineffective and can be life-threatening in rare cases. Thus, therapeutic proteins have to be scrutinised closely to remove unwanted by-products.

International teams of scientists

As part of the project entitled Analytics for Biologics (A4B), chemists from 17 institutions in Denmark, Austria, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Britain and Germany will develop new ways of cleaning therapeutic proteins and special mass spectrometric techniques for recognising and determining the amounts. Developed and managed by Schlüter, UKE’s project will receive EUR 500,000 of the total funds. Schlüter pointed out: “Due to the composition and cleansing of therapeutic proteins, the chemical analysis of such proteins is one of the most complex tasks in bio-analytics and biotechnology. The project will develop methods for analysing and cleansing therapeutic proteins as part of Ph.D theses and to train people in the associated graduates school as experts in the field of therapeutic proteins.”

Lowering costs

Improved cleansing methods would raise patient safety and lower production costs, according to experts. Methods developed during the project could be used to learn more about pharmacokinetic studies on how to improve the effectiveness of therapeutic proteins, experts say.

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