Cydney M. Martell
Creating Robust Proteins for Treating Disease
Proteins are essential molecules in living organisms and play critical roles in biological processes. Their precise three-dimensional shapes are crucial for their functions, and if they lose their shape, it can cause disease.
Protein therapy is an effective treatment that involves using engineered proteins to repair or replace damaged ones in the body. The success of these therapies depends on maintaining the proper shape for interacting with disease targets. Yet, proteins can lose their shape and clump together when exposed to stressors such as changes in temperature or pH. These clumps, called aggregates, compromise a drug’s safety and efficacy, which is why drugs require strict storage conditions and extensive testing to find the best formulation.
My research addresses this challenge by learning how to engineer proteins that fold into the desired shape and resist aggregation after stress exposure. I will measure the stress-induced aggregation for thousands of proteins at once. Then I will use computational modeling to elucidate why some proteins aggregate and others don’t. These insights will inform how to design new proteins that resist aggregation, reducing the need for stringent formulation and delivery constraints to enhance their potential in treating disease.
I am honored to receive a Predoctoral Fellowship in Drug Delivery from the PhRMA Foundation. This support is instrumental for conducting my current PhD research and gives me confidence and a boost to pursue a career researching protein therapeutics.