“We’re evolving towards systems pharmacology”

  A theoretical chemist by training, Jordi Mestres started up the chemogenomics lab of the IMIM, currently part of the GRIB, in 2003. The structure of the group, made up of graduates and doctors in chemistry, biology, biotechnology and computer science, perfectly reflects its three main lines of research: molecules, proteins and programming to predict the interaction between them. “We apply our predictions to both drug discovery and chemical biology”, summarises Mestres. This last discipline consists of using small molecules to sound out biology, for example inhibiting a protein to understand its function. According to the scientist from Girona the … Continue reading “We’re evolving towards systems pharmacology”

“We are the interface between industry and academia” – Computer-assisted drug design lab

The Computer-Assisted Drug Design (CADD) laboratory of the GRIB is devoted to the area of drug design and development. Directed by Manuel Pastor, who started the group 10 years ago at the IMIM, it includes pharmacists, biologists, chemists, and a mathematician. “We also had a telecommunications engineer at one point. Our research needs experts in both science and programming”, justifies Pastor. The group’s interests are divided into three main areas. The first is methodological: they have written several programs marketed and are used by many pharmaceutical companies. The most recent one is Pentacle, which allows the creation of models relating … Continue reading “We are the interface between industry and academia” – Computer-assisted drug design lab

Neuropharmacology Research Unit (CEXS-UPF)

Drug abuse and emotional disorders, such as anxiety and depression, are generating a serious social problem. This is why Rafael Maldonado’s neuropharmacology group at the CEXS-UPF studies the common biological mechanisms involved in these two phenomena. They focus particularly in nicotine, cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy, and in the possible mechanisms underlying the abusive consume of these substances. Maldonado explains there are three factors to understand why some people become addictive and others don’t: drug consume (the quantity, the frequency, the mode); social and environmental factors; and individual vulnerability, which includes genetic factors. A classical example of the effect of the environment … Continue reading Neuropharmacology Research Unit (CEXS-UPF)

Overexpressing the Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in mice increases sensitivity to nicotine

A publication in Amino Acids by researchers from UPF, CRG and other centers provides the first in vivo evidence of the involvement of the CHRNA5/A3/B4 gene cluster in nicotine addiction. It happens through modifying the activity of brain regions responsible for the balance between the rewarding and the aversive properties of this drug. CHRNA5/A3/B4 codes for the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor subunits A5, A3 and B4. Together they form the ligand-gated pentameric ion channels that modulate key physiological processes ranging from neurotransmission to cancer signaling. These receptors are activated by the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, and the tobacco alkaloid, nicotine. Recently, the gene … Continue reading Overexpressing the Nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in mice increases sensitivity to nicotine

The effect of genes and environment on the consequences of ecstasy use

The Human Pharmacology and Clinical Neurosciences group of the IMIM-Hospital del Mar, lead by Rafael de la Torre, has published a paper in PLoS One  this week to try to clarify the association between cumulative use of MDMA (ecstasy), one of the most popular illegal psychostimulants abused among youth,  and cognitive dysfunction. They have also set to understand the potential role of candidate genetic polymorphisms in explaining individual differences in the cognitive effects of MDMA. Several studies have suggested that MDMA induces neurotoxicity, which primarily affects the serotonin system and is linked to memory dysfunction. There is also evidence that several gene polymorphisms may contribute to explain variations … Continue reading The effect of genes and environment on the consequences of ecstasy use

“Habitual competitors are now working together to get better toxicity predictions”

Ferran Sanz (IMIM-UPF) tells us about the eTOX project in a recent interview published in El·lipse, the monthly PRBB publication. The electronic toxicology project (eTOX) started in January 2010 as one of the projects funded in the first call of the IMI (Innovative Medicines Initiative), a unique public-private partnership between the European Community and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). Ferran Sanz, director of the Research Programme on Biomedical Informatics (GRIB, IMIM-UPF) and academic coordinator of eTOX, evaluates the project’s achievements so far as very positive. What exactly is eTOX about? All IMI projects, including eTOX, bring … Continue reading “Habitual competitors are now working together to get better toxicity predictions”