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November 21, 2012

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Cell institute to help develop new drugs

A LIFE science research institute focusing on human cell signaling and the development of new drugs was established in the city yesterday.

The iHuman Institute is under the new ShanghaiTech University in the Pudong New Area. It will conduct research mainly on a large family of protein receptors that pass through cell membranes.

Cell signaling, a complex form of communication between cells, is the key to how the body functions. The complexity of signaling in humans defines how we are different from other living species.

Signaling begins at the cell surface, while the family of protein receptors, called "G protein coupled receptors" or GPCR, is involved in 80 percent of cell surface activities in the human body, involving functions such as growth, reproduction and nervous and mental activities.

The receptors are the target of 40 percent of modern medicines. The 12 drugs among the 20 top sellers in the world use GPCR as targets with US$200 billion annual sales.

"Two scientists studying on GPCR received this year's Noble Prize in Chemistry," said Wu Jiarui from Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. "It is actually the second time that scientists on GPCR research received Noble Prize, showing how important GPCR to science."

The iHuman institute will work on new drug development through studying new signaling molecules and pathways, said Raymond Stevens, an American who is founding director of iHuman Institute and a top scientist at the California-based Scripps Research Institute.


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