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6 November, 2018 - 11:16 By Kate Sweeney

Cambridge software drafted in for battle against malaria

Software from Optibrium in Cambridge is being deployed by students at Nottingham University collaborating with pharma giant GSK to find potential treatments for fibrotic diseases and malaria.

Optibrium’s StarDrop™ software will be available to a number of 4th year MSci Chemistry project students at the university as part of their training in modern drug discovery to aid in the design of potential new candidate compounds for integrin inhibition in the disease areas identified for targeting by GSK.

Optibrium will also provide teaching on the application of software for drug discovery in support of an initiative to provide students with the most relevant courses for a career in the pharmaceutical industry.

Applying Optibrium’s StarDrop software and its unique drug discovery capabilities will enable the students to, for example, characterise properties for known drugs, understand the structure-activity relationships in existing project data and then design new candidate compounds using industry-leading predictive models. 

Fibrotic diseases account for approximately 45 per cent of deaths in the industrialised world, with the increasing need for improved treatment options. 

The key common element causing fibrosis is the build-up of scar tissue in the extracellular matrix of certain organs, in particular the kidneys, liver, lungs and skin. As part of the design for new candidate drug compounds, students will study integrin inhibition, targeting the disease-causing scar tissue.

Malaria is an infectious disease transmitted through the Anopheles mosquito. The World Health Organisation reported in 2016 that around 212 million cases of malaria occurred worldwide, resulting in 429,000 mortalities in 2015. 

A global target has been set to reduce the incidence and mortality by 90 per cent by 2030. However, current drug treatments are threatened by the emergence of drug resistant strains, increasing the need for novel drugs to treat and block transmission.

Dr Matthew Segall, CEO of Optibrium, said: “Our partnership with the University of Nottingham gives us the opportunity to engage with students and provide them with access to cutting edge technology in drug discovery.
“Fibrotic diseases and malaria continue to cause significant mortality and morbidity so we are delighted to help train future medicinal chemists and to work collaboratively to find improved treatment and preventative therapies.”

• PHOTOGRAPH: The GSK Carbon Neutral Laboratory at the University of Nottingham

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