We can make real progress in curing cancer, says biologist [+video]
A Professor of Structural Biology at the University of Birmingham has spoken about the challenges in the next decade for finding therapeutic agents for curing cancer.
Speaking at Science Capital's Innovative Healthcare Meeting in Birmingham, Professor Michael Overduin spoke exclusively to The Information Daily about the challenges facing cancer research.
Professor Overduin, researcher at the University of Birmingham and founder of Science Capital, says he is hopeful that “we can make real progress in the next decade” to find “new therapeutic agents” to alleviate cancer.
Professor Overduin studies the structure of proteins found in tumour cells and how mutations affect their behaviour.
This work, he believes, will pave the way to understanding how proteins communicate with each other, and thus, discovering the causes of cancerous cells and encouraging the design of new therapeutic agents to combat the cells.
“We are trying to figure out how life operates in terms of the molecules that are in our cells.”
He continued: “We try and find out how proteins behave and when we understand how they behave we can figure out how to change their behaviour.”
“In a tumour cell you will have mutations that alter a protein structure and so if we can see how those mutations affect protein structure and how they affect how proteins communicate with each other, we then have a way into designing new therapeutic agents.”
“I am really fascinated with how biology works. I want to see how molecules create organisation, not just fixed organisation but dynamic organisation. I want to know how that order is created. We are organic and messy individuals perhaps but beneath that there is a code that says exactly what cell type [we have].”
In 2010, Dr Overduin founded Science Capital in Birmingham to provide an independent forum for academics, start ups, SMEs and business experts to come together and discuss innovative technologies, global challenges and science.
He said: “By working together with drug companies, small companies with great technologies and with universities where you have this wealth of knowledge, [and] bring that all together, you can really start making a difference.”
Speaking about the progress in cancer research, Mr Overduin said: “I would say we are not even half way there, but we are getting there slowly but surely.”
“I think there is so much information now that we know: the genes that make us who we are, and we know the proteins they encode.”
“We can start now to chip away at how that creates order, creates cells and tissues and hopefully we can make real progress in the next decade in terms of using the information to make new therapeutic agents,” he said.