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HKBU research project receives HK$1 million boost from Health and Medical Research Fund in support of inhibitors development for treatment of Hepatitis C

22 Jan 2015

Over the years Dr Edmond Ma has made many contributions to drug discovery.
Over the years Dr Edmond Ma has made many contributions to drug discovery.

Dr Edmond Ma, Assistant Professor of the Department of Chemistry, received a total of HK$998,284 from the Government’s Health and Medical Research Fund 2013-14 for his research project entitled “Development of Pin1 inhibitors for the treatment of hepatitis C”. The project led by Dr Ma was conducted in collaboration with Dr Leung Chung-hang, Associate Professor, Institute of Chinese Medical Sciences of the University of Macau and his team.

Pin1 is a human enzyme that has been linked with both hepatitis B and hepatitis C viral infections. Overexpression of Pin1 has been linked with hepatocellular carcinoma (the most common type of liver cancer). The research team plans to use molecular docking software to discover novel and highly selective inhibitors of Pin1 from databases of natural products or natural product-like through structure-based virtual screening methods. Virtual screening offers an integrated approach in modern drug discovery that may lead to the identification of novel lead molecules. It could identify potent and selective ligands in silico and greatly reduce the number of compounds to be tested in vitro, thus it could reduce the time and experiment materials needed to conduct biological assays. The team anticipates that these selected inhibitors could potentially be developed as therapeutic agents to complement existing anti-hepatitis C regimens.

Hepatitis C is a highly prevalent disease affecting 150 million people worldwide, with 3 to 4 million new cases diagnosed every year. Pin1 microRNA and protein expression levels were found to be elevated in HCV replicon cells and HCV-infected cells, and treatment of those cells with a Pin1 inhibitor has been shown to decrease hepatitis C propagation.

The funding will be spent on the purchase of molecular docking software, natural product compound libraries, chemical and biochemical reagents, and for the recruitment of talented staff. Dr Ma said, “We are highly grateful for the funding support from the Health and Medical Research Fund this year. This is a good opportunity for my team to develop effective lead compounds for the treatment of hepatitis infection.”