Scientists pool information to boost understanding of drug action

November 30, 2005

A revamped international database, launched tomorrow, 1 December 2005 by The International Union of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology (IUPHAR) and hosted by the University of Edinburgh, has drawn together information on human genes that are targets for current and future medicines. The IUPHAR database has had a major update, following 12 years' work by 300 contributors. It is expected to be a major knowledge source for students and scientists throughout the world.

As a result of the Human Genome Project, scientists now know the human DNA codes for about 20,000-25,000 genes, each of which could be a target for the development of new medicines. However, most scientists believe that only about 10% of these genes are likely targets for the drugs of the future. More than 40% of the medicinal drugs in current use, many drugs of abuse and an estimated 20% of all future likely drug targets are members of three relatively small families of proteins: G Protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs), ion channels and nuclear hormone receptors. Drugs which work through GPCRs include treatments for asthma, ulcers and heart disease.

Professor Tony Harmar, Head of the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University said: "The Human Genome Project has sparked a huge effort by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies worldwide to identify new drug targets and much of this effort has focused on the GPCRs. Our knowledge of this branch of science has advanced very rapidly and it has been difficult for scientists engaged in research in the field and in the teaching of the pharmacology - the science of drug action- to keep pace with the information explosion. The goal of the IUPHAR database is to provide information on all of the GPCRs, with information on the drugs that act on them, the targets in the body where they are found and the diseases in which they may be involved." Professor Michael Spedding, Chairman of NC-IUPHAR, commented: "The knowledge in this database is freely available to all scientists and drug discoverers throughout the world, and is a powerful tool for future research".

University of Edinburgh

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