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New technique will help search for new cancer drugs and antibiotics

A team of John Innes Centre (JIC) scientists led by Prof Tony Maxwell have developed a new technique that will help search for new anti-cancer and anti-bacterial drugs more quickly and accurately.

The researchers found a new way of measuring the activity of a group of enzymes called DNA topoisomerases that help package DNA, the molecule that stores genetic information, into cells. Chemicals that block these enzymes could be developed into new anti-cancer and anti-bacterial drugs.

The previous method used for measuring the activity of topoisomerases is time consuming and labour-intensive; this new technique is faster, more accurate and could be automated with robotics to screen thousands of chemicals and identify those with the potential to be made into drugs.

“This development is really exciting because it will speed up the whole discovery process for this type of drug. A quicker and more accurate screen will allow more potential drugs to be assessed and therefore aid the search for urgently needed new anti-cancer and antibacterial drugs” says Tony Maxwell. “A patent for the technique has been granted and we already have several pharmaceutical companies that are interested in licensing the technology”.

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The technique has been patented and will be marketed by PBL, the technology management company of the John Innes Centre, and will be further developed by Inspiralis Ltd, a spin-out company housed in the Norwich Bioincubator.

The research was funded by the BBSRC and PBL and is published online in the peer-reviewed journal Nucleic Acids Research.

Vicky Just | alfa
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