Merck KGaA Invests in State-Of-The-Art Equipment for Drug Discovery and Development

The Healthcare division of Merck KGaA acquired a new high-tech equipment to be installed at iBET, strengthening iBET's drug discovery and development capabilities.

Hydrogen Deuterium Exchange Mass Spectrometry (HDX-MS) is a powerful technique increasingly applied to provide useful insights into the mode-of-action of drugs and protein dynamics in solution. Protein structural characterization is a critical aspect of drug development since subtle local conformational changes may impact both safety and efficacy of biopharmaceuticals.

This novel equipment has the power to determine the binding sites of small molecules as well as to map the epitope of large biotherapeutics. In addition, HDX-MS enables studying protein dynamics of small and large protein complexes as well as of membrane proteins.

Commenting on the new acquisition, Paula Alves, CEO of iBET, said: “This new equipment has much less stringent demands of protein amounts as compared to X-ray crystallography, it can thus speed up drug discovery process by providing functional data and structural insights when a protein crystal structure is not readily available. We are very proud of getting this extra proof of trust and real partnership with Merck started in the mid-90s”

This investment builds up on the 2019 expansion of the Merck Satellite Lab at iBET and it is associated with extra funding from Merck Portugal to cover a 4-year research project and a PhD student fellowship.

Currently, iBET hosts 4 different satellite laboratories from global pharmaceutical companies – Merck KGaA, Bayer, Sanofi and Novartis – enabling the attraction of foreign investment and the retention of highly qualified professionals in Portugal.