POSTECH News

The Cell Membrane Protein Institute to be Established in Pohang, Finding a Cause of Disease by Light Source

2019-07-04 181

[Establishment of the Institute raises a hope for promoting Korea as a leading player in the new pharmaceutical market which has reached over 1,500 trillion KRW.]

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Cell membrane proteins are known to cause over 60% of all disease, but it has been difficult to analyze them and apply to the development of new drugs. For this reason, the Cell Membrane Protein Research Institute (CMPRI) is to be established in Pohang, the third of its kind in the world, and anticipated to analyze cell membrane proteins in depth.

The Ministry of Science and ICT recently appointed the consortium of POSTECH and Gyeongbuk Province as the final grantee of the “Synchrotron Radiation Accelerator-based Drug Development Project” grant and promised to support 22.9 billion KRW for establishing the Institute which is the core goal of the project.

The Cell Membrane Protein Institute will invest the total amount of 45.8 billion KRW over the period of five years from 2019 to 2023 and will be located in the Pohang Fusion Tech District which is to be developed by Daegu Gyeonbuk Free Economic Zone Authority. Using the 4th generation light source operating at POSTECH, the Institute will research on structural functions of cell membrane proteins. The Institute is the first national research institute for such comprehensive and systemic research which is to be established as the third of its kind in the world, followed by the first two in Germany and U.S.A.

When cell membrane proteins are analyzed, it will not only be much easier to find new drug candidates but it will also develop more creative screening technology than the conventional compound screening for drug discovery. Furthermore, it will save the cost and time invested in discovering new drug candidates significantly. It is anticipated that all these future achievements are to elevate Korea to lead in the global new pharmaceutical market which has reached over 1,500 trillion KRW.

The Institute plans to develop new drug candidates and antibody-drug conjugates by analyzing structures, functions and applications of membrane proteins of six severe disease such as cancer, contagious disease, metabolic syndrome, brain disease, cardiovascular disease, and rare disease – pancreatic cancer, breast cancer, hypertension, sepsis, and AIDS to name a few.

Led by Professor Jie-Oh Lee of Life Sciences at POSTECH, the CMPRI Project Bureau was launched at the University in last February for establishment of the Institute and research on cell membrane proteins. The Bureau will be responsible for (1) core projects including establishment of the Institute, (2) identifying high resolution three-dimensional structures of cell membrane proteins and research on activation of membrane proteins, and (3) discovering structure-based design of antibodies and lead compound.

Moreover, the Bureau will manage the POSTECH Fund to foster start-ups and venture capital companies and to create jobs, bringing more achievements than just pharmaceutical research. It will further expand its business in promoting venture capitals, associated with POSCO Venture Valley Project.

Since the fourth-generation synchrotron radiation facility built at the University in 2016, the Synchrotron Radiation Accelerator-based Drug Development Project has been collaboratively conducted by POSTECH, Gyeonbuk Province, and Pohang City for cultivating industries poised for growth in the future.