Myriad Genetics has announced that it has been awarded a five-year, $14.2 million contract by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.
The agreement recognizes Myriad's expertise in pathogen-host protein interaction analysis, which has previously been applied by the Company to a range of anti-viral drug programs. Specifically, this expertise has been key to Myriad's anti-HIV therapeutic development program, which produced an exciting lead drug candidate, MPI-49839, that is now approaching the human clinical trial stage.
Myriad will use its expertise to characterize pathogen-host protein interactions in an effort to discover targets for the next generation of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. These targets provide a starting point for development of products that focus on microorganisms and pathogens. Protein interaction and validation data will be made available to the research and development community through the Proteomics Research Program Administrative Center. Myriad retains the rights to commercialize diagnostic and therapeutic targets discovered from the project.
"We are pleased to be in a position to make a significant contribution to combating a number of potentially dangerous viral and microbial agents," said Jerry Lanchbury, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of Research at Myriad Genetics, Inc. "In particular, we will study the ways in which the pathogens interact with the cellular machinery of their human hosts. Myriad's work with the viruses that cause AIDS and hepatitis, among others, provides a convincing demonstration of our capabilities in understanding and exploiting the viral-host interaction."
Insufficient knowledge exists regarding certain microbe-human protein interactions that facilitate infection and drive pathogenicity. This knowledge is an essential first step in designing vaccines or therapeutic biologics and small molecule drugs. Using its expertise in industrial scale yeast two-hybrid methodology, bioinformatics and DNA sequencing, Myriad plans to undertake systematic, proteome-wide analyses to develop comprehensive protein interaction maps between the human proteome and the proteomes of selected pathogens important to the mission of the NIAID.
Specific interactions will undergo an initial phase of biological validation using methodologies such as microbial gene knockout and small interfering RNA targeting of host interacting proteins in appropriate experimental systems. Combined, these efforts are anticipated to enhance our understanding of the biology and mechanisms of pathogenesis of the organisms under study, facilitating the development of new approaches to combat their ability to cause disease.