Department of Drug Design and Target Validation


Establishing a device unit for drug characterization: Shining the spotlight on neurodegenerative diseases

Neurodegenerative diseases, particularly Alzheimer's, present indications associated with a chronically progressive loss of neurons. Although numerous risk factors and also strategies to prevent neurodegeneration are already being tested, drug intervention is not usually an option. Recent studies have further highlighted a correlation between infections and neurological functional disorders. A connection with the emergence of neurodegeneration cannot be ruled out.

The Department of Drug Design and Target Validation at Fraunhofer IZI is focused in particular on carrying out research into these diseases and investigating potential therapeutic molecules. Building on this, new treatment concepts that draw on small molecules and biologicals will be developed and investigated as to their efficacy and tolerability in the living organism. The department boasts a wealth of experience stretching back many years in the preclinical development of drugs, with expertise covering practically the entire range of tasks associated with preclinical drug development.

Investigating, developing and optimizing promising drug candidates does however require a thorough examination of these molecules at their sites of action in the protein (targets) in order to understand modes of action and identify where improvements could be made. This is where structure determination comes in: Using X-ray crystallography, a three-dimensional image can be obtained of drug molecules bound to their site of action. In addition, testing drug candidates in vitro and in vivo requires an extensive analysis of their purity and of the kinetic binding behavior at the site of action by means of mass spectrometry and other biophysical methods, e.g. SPR or ITC.

By providing this infrastructure, it will be possible in Halle (Saale) to characterize new and known drugs in detail in future with regard to their mode of action and to optimize them accordingly.

Project manager: Prof. Dr. Stephan Schilling