DNA with a twist: New company to search for cancer drugs and antibiotics

February 13, 2008
DNA with a twist: New company to search for cancer drugs and antibiotics
DNA Topoisomerase molecule. Credit: JIC

A new company has joined the fight against MRSA and cancer. Researchers at the John Innes Centre (Norwich) have launched a new company, Inspiralis Ltd, based around their expertise in DNA topoisomerases – a group of enzymes that help DNA molecules to unravel and wind up properly and not to become tangled during replication.

“DNA becomes tangled as a result of various cellular processes, such as replication, which ultimately stops these processes continuing. DNA topoisomerases untangle it. Without them cells die”, says Inspiralis co-founder Dr Nicolas Burton.

Topoisomerases are already targets for several drugs, including anti-tumour drugs and antibiotics, such as ciprofloxacin – the anti-anthrax drug. The search is now on for new ways of inhibiting them. Inspiralis Ltd make a range of products targeted to the pharmaceutical industry to enable drug-discovery work in this area including topoisomerase enzymes themselves as well as associated products.

A new high-throughput assay, developed recently in the laboratory of Prof. Tony Maxwell of the John Innes Centre (and co-founder of Inspiralis), will also provide a huge advance on the standard gel-based screening method for topoisomerase inhibitors. Inspiralis Ltd will develop the technique further as well as offering screening services to companies. “The assay will potentially allow millions of compounds to be screened for activity rather than just hundreds”, says Dr Burton.

The technology can now be accessed as a service or as a kit helping pharmaceutical companies and academics to screen for new and better cancer drugs and antibiotics.

Some powerful antibiotics and key anti-cancer drugs act by inhibiting topoisomerases. In cancer, cells rapidly divide in an uncontrolled manner and topoisomerase inhibitors can block this uncontrolled cell division.

“Topoisomerase inhibitors are key targets for new drug development”, says Mrs Alison Howells (co-founder). “We can test potential new drugs against topoisomerases as well as help discover new inhibitors as a first step to developing brand new drugs”.

Inspiralis is based at the Norwich Bio-Incubator at JIC and was founded with backing from the ICENI fund, a private investor and the John Innes Centre.

The high-throughput assay is patented by JIC’s and BBSRC’s technology transfer company, Plant Biosciences Ltd, and non-exclusive licenses have already been granted to pharmaceutical companies.

Source: Norwich BioScience Institutes

Related Stories

Recommended for you

New approach attacks 'undruggable' cancers from the outside in

January 23, 2018
Cancer researchers have made great strides in developing targeted therapies that treat the specific genetic mutations underlying a patient's cancer. However, many of the most common cancer-causing genes are so central to ...

Study: Cells of three advanced cancers die with drug-like compounds that reverse chemo failure

January 23, 2018
Researchers at Southern Methodist University have discovered three drug-like compounds that successfully reverse chemotherapy failure in three of the most commonly aggressive cancers—ovarian, prostate and breast.

Scientists block the siren call of two aggressive cancers

January 23, 2018
Aggressive cancers like glioblastoma and metastatic breast cancer have in common a siren call that beckons the bone marrow to send along whatever the tumors need to survive and thrive.

'Hijacker' drives cancer in some patients with high-risk neuroblastoma

January 23, 2018
Researchers have identified mechanisms that drive about 10 percent of high-risk neuroblastoma cases and have used a new approach to show how the cancer genome "hijacks" DNA that regulates other genes. The resulting insights ...

Enzyme inhibitor combined with chemotherapy delays glioblastoma growth

January 23, 2018
In animal experiments, a human-derived glioblastoma significantly regressed when treated with the combination of an experimental enzyme inhibitor and the standard glioblastoma chemotherapy drug, temozolomide.

Researchers identify a protein that keeps metastatic breast cancer cells dormant

January 23, 2018
A study headed by ICREA researcher Roger Gomis at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona) has identified the genes involved in the latent asymptomatic state of breast cancer metastases. The work sheds light ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.