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Structural Biology Program

The Structural Biology program is interested in obtaining a detailed 3D structural and functional understanding of the proteins involved in human iron distribution. By determining the structures of proteins involved in these processes, we aim to be able to provide a scaffold for the development of drugs that can effectively ‘tune’ their function and thus provide new treatments for patients, in particular patients with Anemia of Chronic Disease.

Understanding Disease

Iron is an essential element, which is acquired from our diet and distributed in our body by a set of specific membrane proteins. In humans the acquisition and distribution of iron is required for a range of vital cellular processes, such as generation of red blood cells.

Errors in the proteins involved in iron distribution can cause a range of disease states, such as cancer and anemia (reduced levels of red blood cells). In long-term hospitalised patients, such as cancer patients or patients with chronic inflammation or infection, there is commonly an imbalance in the iron distribution, leading to Anemia of Chronic Disease.

By understanding membrane protein anatomy, structure and function, we hope to facilitate a structure-based drug discovery.

Finding a Cure

Studies have shown that 30-80% of cancer patients, 25-50% of chronic kidney disease patients, and between 20-90% of acute and chronic infections are associated with anemia. In these patients, ACD is correlated with heart failure, poor prognosis and lower quality of life.

Perioperative anemia has also been correlated with increased morbidity, mortality, and length of hospital stay. A systematic review of 60 studies found the relative risk of death in patients with cancer increased by 65% in the presence of anemia.

Every day our research comes one step closer to finding a cure. We are progressing our aim for the “perfect” drug to treat ACD, with the development of pharmaceutical compounds.

Dr Mika Jormakka, Head of Program

Phone: +61 2 9565 6280
Email: m.jormakka@centenary.org.au