May 12, 2003

Accelerate Development of Vaccines and Drugs against New type of Pneumonia

Kitasato University and SGI Predict Protein Structures of SARS Virus

Structural Data Available for free-of-charge on the web

A Professor Hideaki Umeyama-led research team at School of Pharmaceutical Sciences Kitasato University (Minato-ward, Tokyo) and SGI Japan Ltd. (CEO: Norio Izumi, Headquarters: Ebisu Shibuya-ward) have jointly predicted the 3D protein structure of a virus of a new type of pneumonia, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which has been rampant particularly in Asian countries, and started the world’s first service to provide such information on the 3D structural data for free of charge. This service is expected to accelerate the studies to develop drugs to treat the deadly respiratory illness and vaccines to prevent the infection.

The basis of the technology developed by Prof. Umeyama is a globally acknowledged method of homology modeling which can predict protein structures by taking advantages of high performance computing. Collaborative research between Kitasato University and SGI Japan has predicted the 3D protein structures with the use of software analyzing protein structures called “PDFAMS Pro” and “PDFAMS Ligand” that Prof. Umeyama developed. The publication of the information is expected to accelerate the development of both vaccines and drugs against the SARS virus.

SARS has been spreading drastically centering around China. According to the statistics issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) and reports by each national government, the death toll exceeded 500 as of May 8. While each government has been taking various steps to curb the spread of the infection, several organizations including pharmaceutical companies have been putting utmost efforts in developing antiviral drugs and vaccines to combat the disease.

Analysis of the structures of proteins assisting self-reproduction of SARS virus has been considered essential to progress of such studies.

The joint research team between Kitasato University and SGI Japan has successfully predicted the structures of enzyme proteins such as Proteinase and RNA Polymerase involving in self-reproduction of SARS virus, based on the gene sequence of SARS virus determined by research institutions including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Proteinase and RNA Polymerase are proteins to assist SARS virus in reproducing, thus can be targets for developing inhibitors. Because only few proteins can be targeted for this purpose, the analysis of these proteins will allow experts across the world to promote their studies focusing on 3D coordinates of the protein structures.

Kitasato University and SGI Japan are planning to continue their collaborative study in an attempt to improve accuracy of the structural models.

The data of the protein structures are available for free-of-charge at the web site of In-Silico Sciences Inc., In-Silico Sciences Inc. is a venture company established by Prof. Umeyama and his friends with the purpose of commercializing the outcomes of their studies.

°ŁProf. Hideaki Umeyama at School of Pharmaceutical Science Kitasato University told as follows: “For 2 decades, we have been working on improving the method of homology modeling in terms of in silico. Now it is completely computerized and used to determine 3D coordinates of protein structures for any kinds of living beings. With this method, we analyzed the structure of proteins needed for SARS virus to reproduce, based on the gene sequence released by CDC in the US. The result is being offered at for free. We are hoping this information will contribute to collaborative studies between industry and academia that lead to the earliest possible development of drugs and vaccines against SARS virus.”