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New tool for studying a key drug target

G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRS) are one of the key elements mediating basic stimuli like our response to mosquito bites or to this last-minute goal scored by our favorite football team. In fact, these proteins are the target of almost 40% of the currently approved drugs. However, until now, researchers did not have access to a tool employing molecular simulations to achieve a better understanding of GPCR function.

Therefore, a consortium of researchers from 23 different institutions of 10 different European countries and the United States have joined forces to design and build a tool that will help improve our understanding of the function of these receptors, which are responsible of transmitting signals to the interior of cells. The GPCRmd platform is the result of this work, lead and coordinated by the GPCR Drug Discovery group of GRIB (IMIM - UPF), and the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) in Switzerland, with support from the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

Dr. Jana Selent, head of the GPCR group at GRIB and main corresponding author of this study explains: "we have used state-of-the-art technology that requires highly specific knowledge, like molecular simulations, to build an online resource where scientists from different disciplines can easily inspect and analyze a comprehensive set of molecular simulations of GPCRs". This will allow, according to Dr. Ramon Guixà-González, postdoctoral researcher at PSI in Switzerland and co-corresponding author of this study, "to extract information that will be helpful in the study and development of new drugs targeting diseases as relevant as cancer or Alzheimer's disease". Other relevant authors of this study are Ismael Rodríguez Espigares and Mariona Torrens Fontanals, postdoctoral and predoctoral researchers at the GRIB.

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GRIB participates in the Disc4All Project, an innovative training network of the European Commission

Ferran Sanz, Laura I. Furlong and Baldo Oliva will participate in the Disc4All project: Training network to advance integrated computational simulations in translational medicine, applied to intervertebral disc degeneration, coordinated by Jérôme Noailly, principal investigator in the Biomechanics and Mechanobiology research area at BCN MedTech of UPF. It is one of the ten selected projects in Catalonia as an Innovative Training Network (ITN) Marie Sklodowska-Curie, in the European Commission's ITN MSC Actions call.

The European innovative training networks (ITN) aim to train a new generation of researchers in their early stages who are creative, enterprising and innovative, capable of dealing with the challenges of the future and turn knowledge and ideas into products and services with an economic and a social benefit. ITN programmes within the framework of the European Commission's Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions support joint competitive programmes for training in research or joint doctorates. These programmes will be implemented by partnerships of universities, research centres, businesses, SMEs and other stakeholders in Europe and the rest of the world.

As part of this project, the GRIB will train young researchers in the tools available to analyze genomic data (DisGeNET) and comorbidities (comoRbidity). DisGeNET is a public knowledge management platform that offers information on genes and genomic variants associated with human diseases, which is obtained by integrating data from more than a dozen public resources and the scientific literature It contains one of the most comprehensive collections of genes and variants associated with human diseases that is currently available. On the other hand comoRbidity, is a program designed to provide a systematic and complete analysis of the comorbidities of the disease from both a clinical and molecular perspective.

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Disc4All Project, an innovative training network funded by the European Commission for the period 2020 - 2023, aims to integrate available data and computational simulations on back pain caused by intervertebral disc degeneration with a multidisciplinary translational medicine approach.   

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