The Facility is comprised of various laboratories and groups with a broad range of competences including Synthetic and Medicinal Chemistry, Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, NMR Spectroscopy, in vitro and in vivo Pharmacology, and Lab Automation and Data Management.
Thanks to those competences and state-of-the-art instruments, the Facility can undertake various tasks such as synthesis and characterization of potential new drugs, development of specific in vitro assays to evaluate the biological activity and/or toxicity of compounds and materials, assessment of the efficacy of drugs and drug delivery systems in animal models of disease, quantification of drugs in biological fluids and tissues, and search for potential biomarkers of activity and/or toxicity of small molecules and new materials.
Leveraging on their competences, the Facility can apply a multidisciplinary approach to support specific research needs of IIT laboratories in the area of life sciences and intelligent drug delivery systems.
The medicinal chemistry group is in charge of developing chemical series of interest for drug discovery projects. The starting points for medicinal chemistry programs are the ‘hits’ identified by structure- or fragment-based approach or automated screening of the Facility chemical collection of more than 15,000 compounds.
Hits are progressively improved by the synthesis of analogues in order to discover ‘lead’ compounds. Drug-like properties of the leads are then optimized through an iterative process with the ultimate goal of identifying candidates for preclinical development and eventual clinical testing.
Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry laboratory
The laboratory is a state-of-the-art infrastructure dedicated to the development of analytical and bioanalytical methods for the study of small molecules and biomolecules. Several assays, including solubility and metabolic stability tests, are available to characterize new compounds originating from drug discovery projects.
Moreover, the pharmacokinetics profile is determined for the most interesting molecules. An extensive expertise exists on proteomics, metabolomics and lipidomics. These technologies are applied to study the interaction of compounds and new materials/nanomaterials with living systems in order to identify and quantitate biomarkers of activity and toxicity.
Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) laboratory
The activities of the NMR lab span from the structural and purity determination of organic compounds to the study of protein-protein and small molecule-protein interactions. NMR-based binding and functional assays are developed to discover modulators of protein activity as starting points for drug discovery projects.
Activities also include metabolomics studies aimed at the identification and quantification of biomarkers for assessing the activity and/or toxicity of potential new drugs either in vitro or in vivo.
In Vitro Pharmacology
The laboratory is in charge of assessing the ability of small molecules to modulate the activity of pharmacologically relevant targets such as enzymes and receptors. Cell-free and cell-based assays are used to study the activity and the mechanism of action of the compounds of interest.
These studies extend to the evaluation of the safety profile of small molecules and new materials/nanomaterials, and to the development of models to possibly predict the biological activities of selected drug delivery systems and nanomaterials.
In Vivo Pharmacology
The in vivo characterization of compounds and nanomaterial-based drug delivery systems for their efficacy and potential toxicity is key to advancing drug discovery and drug delivery projects. The group performs studies to assess pharmacokinetics, efficacy in animal models of disease, and preliminary acute toxicity of drugs and drug delivery systems.
These studies are complemented by the investigation of changes in the levels of endogenous biomolecules to possibly shed light on the mechanism of action and/or toxicity of the tested materials.
Smart Materials (A. Athanassiou): In vivo characterization of new materials for biomedical applications
Nano Carbon Materials (S. Giordani): In vitro characterization of carbon nanomaterials
Graphene Labs (V. Pellegrini, F. Benfenati): Metabolomics of neurons exposed to graphene
NBT-NSYN (L. Cancedda): Behavioral studies of rodent models of autism spectrum disorders
Istituto Giannina Gaslini (L. Galietta): Discovery of new drugs for the treatment of cystic fibrosis
University of Genoa (DIMES, R. Cancedda): Proteomics studies on exosomes