Optogenetics for the search for active substances

License agreement between Max Planck Innovation and Photoswitch Biosciences forms the basis for new platform for identifying and testing novel drug candidates

October 11, 2016

Light-sensitive proteins are changing the way scientists study how new drug candidates affect critical properties of heart and nerve cells. The proteins, discovered by Max Planck researchers, are incorporated into model cells and, with an instrument developed by Photoswitch Biosciences, used to control the function of other ion channels. Monitoring tiny electrical changes in the cells allows researchers to screen chemical libraries for new drug candidates or to evaluate the safety of new drugs for use in humans.

In 2002, Max Planck researchers first isolated Channelrhodopsins, from the green algae Chlamydomonas reiinhardii, and successfully used both in vitro and in vivo to control and study a variety of critical bioelectrical systems. Now the US company Photoswitch Biosciences is developing a complete assay system specifically designed for drug screening and safety pharmacology studies. This enables researchers to make use of the benefits of channel rhodopsin-based optical control. The system analyses the function of heart and nerve significantly faster and more cost-effectively than previous methods.

The new instrumentation platform was developed partly on the basis of a non-exclusive license agreement with Max Planck Innovation, the technology transfer organization of the Max Planck Society, for the use of biological photoreceptors for the direct control of light activated ion channels.

 

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