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Herring Being Tested for New Drugs

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NORWAY - As part of his PhD thesis, Tony Christopeit demonstrates that it is important to study protein interactions with small ligands. These small molecules from herring have been applied in a trial with HIV enzymes and it was observed that these ligands have influenced the HIV enzymes.


Mr Christopeit is a scientist in marine biology at the food research institute Nofima. On 14 February this year, he defended his PhD thesis entitled “Protein Interaction Studies with Low Molecular Weight Ligands”.

“My thesis demonstrates first and foremost how important it is to study protein interactions in order to understand the functions of a drug,” says Mr Christopeit. He emphasizes that his results at best are the first small step on the long path towards a possible new drug.

He refers to BACE1, a membrane protein that is an important drug target for Alzheimer’s disease, and how it is possible to improve development of new BACE1 inhibitors.

What is the link between HIV drugs and raw materials from herring at Nofima in Tromsø?

“Nofima engages in marine bioprospecting and in this field it is common to investigate raw materials from fish and other marine animals. We have chosen herring because in Northern Norway there is access to large amounts of Norwegian spring-spawning herring of high quality,” says Mr Christopeit.

“We found a substance in herring that reduces the activity in various proteases (enzymes) of importance in the development of various diseases. This applied to the HIV1 protease, amongst others.”

Mr Christopeit is a German citizen and studied chemistry and biotechnology in his homeland. In order to take his PhD, he travelled to Uppsala University in Sweden.