Fighting Mycobacterium tuberculosis with structural proteomics

Tuberculosis is one of the deadliest threats to public health today. An estimated two billion people are infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), with eight million new cases annually and two million people dying from the infection each year. The situation is further aggravated by the lethal alliance of HIV and Mtb co-infection. HIV patients have weakened immune systems, making them more susceptible to secondary infections and about one-third of HIV patients die from tuberculosis.

The most effective Mtb-specific antibiotics were developed more than thirty years ago, and since that time, the bacterium has learned to defend itself to become resistant to many of the current drugs. The great need for effective drugs has led researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) Hamburg Outstation and a mix of academic and industrial collaborators to study the proteins in the bacterium, which are the functional machines behind the tuberculosis. By studying the structures of these proteins, an approach termed 'structural proteomics', they hope to find more effective drugs against Mtb.

In support of their efforts, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research has now awarded a 3.5 million Euro grant as part of the government's proteomics initiative "New efficient procedures for functional proteome analysis". The project will be coordinated by EMBL Hamburg and comprises three additional academic partners (Max-Planck Groups for Molecular Structural Biology, Hamburg; Max-Planck-Institute for Infectious Biology, Berlin; Technical University of Munich, Research Center Weihenstefan) and three industrial partners (Biomax, Martinsried; Combinature, Berlin; MarResearch, Norderstedt).

EMBL Hamburg and their partners will work together to apply a step-by-step, structure-based approach to this drug discovery oriented process. In a novel approach, the Max-Planck-Institute for Infectious Biology, Berlin, will analyse the expression of Mtb

Contact: Trista Dawson
European Molecular Biology Laboratory

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