Drug discovery pipeline begins in the gut

“All disease begins in the gut. Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease,” said Hippocrates, an ancient Greek physician.  

jayaraman_2015Of the many disciplines studied in the Artie McFerrin Department of Chemical Engineering, biomedicine and biotechnology are areas represented by faculty research. Dr. Arul Jayaraman, Ray Nesbitt Professor and associate department head, was recently awarded funding from the Research Development Fund by the vice president for research at Texas A&M University. The award supports metabolomics research—the scientific study of the set of metabolites present within an organism. The collected data would then lead to industrial development of biomedicines. 

Jayaraman narrows in on what he believes to be the source location of all human diseases, the gastrointestinal tract. “There are molecules present in our body that have been generally ignored until now, previously categorized as mostly related to digestion and the breaking down of food,” said Jayaraman. “However, what is now emerging is that these same molecules have profound impacts on how our immune system develops, how we fight infections and how we combat the development of disease.”

bacteria

Jayaraman’s focus involves the development of a therapeutic drug discovery pipeline, integrating primary techniques such as detection, identification and quantitative analysis of biomolecules. He then will build upon the research by using modeling and other analytical techniques with the goal of treating inflammatory disease. “These are molecules that can be made within the body by one’s own bacteria,” said Jayaraman. “This leads to...essentially, the new frontier of medicine. 

“We have co-evolved beneficial ways to use these molecules that extend way beyond their intended purpose,” said Jayaraman, who collaborates with Dr. Robert C. Alaniz, assistant professor and director of the College of Medicine’s Cell Analysis Facility, who is an immunologist and inflammatory disease specialist.

Once the team determines which molecules have the best medicinal potential, pre-clinical testing would then be performed by pharmaceutical and biotechnological industries.