From protein structure to disease
Protein structure is a key player in the majority of human diseases. Whether studying the target of an antibiotic, the substrate of a tyrosine kinase, or a defective protein resulting from a genetic mutation, proteins are the basis of biology and of nearly all therapeutic strategies. It is essential to know the structure of proteins and to understand mechanisms that can alter this structure and lead to disease, in order to develop new treatments.
Structural biology has become a leading discipline in medical research in Quebec and involves about 20 internationally renowned research teams in crystallography, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and bioinformatics.
McGill University initiated this with the development of the Quebec/Eastern Canada high field NMR center (QANUC NMR), the recruitment of new research teams (crystallography, NMR, cryo-electron microscopy) and the development of infrastructure programs to buy state-of-the-art equipment. McGill University also took the opportunity of the construction of the new Life Sciences Complex (MULSC) to bring together research teams to promote collaboration and profit from the use of shared equipment. Thus GRASP is in a privileged position to characterize and develop new therapies for conformational diseases. University of Montreal, Concordia University and UQAM have also targeted structural biology by supporting the recruitment of new scientists and the acquisition of new equipment. Within Montreal, there are now 6 research teams focused on biological NMR and 8 working in crystallography. With the Universities of Montreal, Sherbrooke and Laval, Quebec has become a leader in protein studies by NMR with about 10 high field apparatus (600 MHz or more).