There is increasing pressure on researchers to use only the most relevant species to carry out tests to predict human responses. The UK and EU regulations guiding preclinical drug testing to prove drug efficacy and safety before progressing to human trials usually require safety tests to be carried out in two species – usually a rodent and a non-rodent. There have however been changes made to the regulations following reviews, including some opportunities to use just one species.
Caterina’s project will investigate the hypothesis that ‘comparing biochemical similarities of the same drug target amongst different drug species will make it possible for researchers of the future to rationally select the most appropriate single species prior to embarking upon pre-clinical testing of novel chemical entities.’ Caterina will compare three known drug targets in humans, rats, mice, dogs, pigs and sheep, aiming to show how knowledge of protein structures of drug targets and their interactions in different species can yield more accurate predictions of drug efficacy in humans. She will compare this with historical animal data to see if similarities in protein structure influence similar responses in different species, and thus how bioinformatics can help guide species choice for preclinical tests and reduce the need for multiple species testing.
Caterina hopes the Summer Studentship will help her develop her skills in data collection, critical analysis and scientific writing.