University of Calgary

Infections, Inflammation and Chronic Disease

Submitted by alumni on Wed, 11/11/2015 - 15:01.

Infections, Inflammation and Chronic Disease

Understanding how genetics, stress, animal health and the state of the environment interact and impact infections, inflammation, chronic diseases and pain are huge challenges. We’re meeting those by bringing together world-leading expertise in environmental sciences, biological and nutritional sciences, animal sciences, medical sciences, epidemiology, law, population and community health, as well 
as public policy.

How Proteins Build Better Drugs

Justin MacCallum, assistant professor in chemistry, studies the structures of proteins.

“Proteins are the targets of almost all drugs,” he says. “A drug recognizes and binds to a specific protein, causing it to not work anymore. In order to design those drugs, you need to know the structure of a protein and its three-dimensional shape.

“Imagine a long string that has a bunch of different-coloured beads on it. Those are different amino acids, and that long string of amino acids folds up into a complicated, three-dimensional shape.

“We’re trying to understand the rules. How does a sequence of which amino acids, in what order, make up the proteins? How does that lead to a particular 3-D shape, and how can we manipulate that to get the protein to do what we want?

“You can design proteins from scratch that do some particular task at the molecular level. In my lab, we’re focused on the basics of how these molecules behave and how we can learn to control them. We design proteins that bind to and recognize particular markers that are diagnostic for different types of disease or help with different treatments.” U