St. Louis Public Radio News
6:07 pm
Mon February 15, 2010

Researchers develop potential new weapon against malaria, tuberculosis

St. Louis – A research team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has developed a potential new weapon in the fight against major diseases like malaria and tuberculosis.

Lead researcher Eric Oldfield says the key to developing a new drug is finding a protein or enzyme that the disease-causing parasites or bacteria have and need, but that people don't. Finding that enzyme - and then figuring out how to attack, or inhibit it - is usually a long, costly, and often unsuccessful process.

"With this enzyme," says Oldfield, "we just had an idea, based on its structure, and based on general sort of principles of chemistry, that this particular class of compounds would be inhibitors, and, you know, we were lucky that we were right."

Oldfield says a new drug based on his team's findings is years away, but that their work has opened the door to a new line of investigation. Their study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.