With the progress of genome projects, the analysis of structures and functions of more than 100,000 types of proteins which are assumed from genetic sequence of human genome has been energetically underway around the world.
Against this background, there are high expectations for the so-called chemical genomics that aims to comprehensively understand the cellular functions in a genome-wide approach using low-molecular-weight compounds.
In order to regulate the cellular function, it is necessary to identify a protein that becomes a controlling target and synthesize the most appropriate compound to act on the identified protein. However, because these techniques are still immature, it is currently impossible to regulate most of the cellular functions. Therefore, we aim to achieve a regulating technology of various cellular functions by using natural compounds with the development of the following three technologies at the core.
1. Screening technology for exploring compounds with physiological activity
2. Identification technology of cellular regulation protein
3. Technology for optimizing physiologically active compound
The reasons why we dare to select natural compounds in promoting this R&D include; there are originally various kinds of natural compounds; many of them have physiological activities; and Japan overwhelms other countries in the absolute number of possessing compounds, the synthesizing technology, etc.
Furthermore, the reasons why we focus on analysis of cellular expression, not directly targeting proteins, are that Japan has advantages in technologies to visualize and measure alteration of cellular morphology; the development of unique assay systems has been widely carried out; and many important cellular systems that can be controlled by compounds have been already established in the biology field.
Specifically, since many cellular studies including iPS cells and immune cells in Japan have already seized the world initiatives, we can expect to create a novel medical technology by regulating these cellular functions.
In addition to the above reasons, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and other organizations are promoting to improve a compound library, while studies integrated with chemistry and biology have been fostered with the inauguration of the Japanese Society for Chemical Biology. The recent improvement of the foundation to promote these studies has also become the basis to propose this program.
Direct achievements by promoting this research field include; understanding of development mechanism of cellular functions centering on proteins and creation of compounds that can adjust protein functions and novel technologies for screening, etc. In the following science and technology fields, many social and economic effects can be expected.
1. By unraveling the development mechanism of cellular functions that used to be perceived as functional cascade of genes from the aspects of specific proteins, we can dramatically promote life science research.
2. The findings on proteins responsible for regulating cellular functions, compounds that are proven to control those cellular functions and technologies that seize these compounds can accelerate the development of new drugs by companies.
Based on the above, the meaning to invest in this field is extremely significant.