University of York

Putting proteins at the forefront of industrial biotechnology and new drug approaches

Ground-breaking research in protein science leading to new drugs and therapies in medicine, and advances in industrial processes and sustainable energy.

The York Structural Biology Laboratory (YSBL), part of the University’s Department of Chemistry, has carried out pioneering work for nearly 40 years examining the structure of protein molecules to gain insights into protein function in living organisms.

The work has had a significant influence on medical research and places proteins at the forefront of breakthroughs in industrial biotechnology, as well as in the fields of sustainable energy, food security and resource efficiency in industrial processes. The latter includes the use of enzymes in biofuel production and in low temperature washing powders, plus the development of new animal feeds, alleviating the demands for phosphates. The Laboratory’s influence on the search for new drugs and therapies has, among other developments, led to the production of modified fast and slow-acting insulins, which are among the top 50 best-selling drugs globally and being used to treat millions of diabetes patients. The use of x-ray crystallography in the study of proteins produced a molecular model which transformed the understanding of their function and enabled applications to new products and processes. Similarly, the discovery of small molecules that bind to proteins has pointed the way to new drug design by changing the way that proteins work.

The Laboratory’s work has had far-reaching impact: the benefits it brings to the global research community include not only its world-renowned methods and discoveries but also the outstanding scientists it has trained. To wider society this research contributes to the development of new medicines and also the development of new approaches in the search for novel drugs and therapies in medicine.