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The Middle Molecule IT-based Drug Discovery Laboratory (MIDL) was established in September of 2017 as one of the “Innovation Research Initiatives” at Tokyo Institute of Technology.

The “Innovation Research Initiatives” are research organizations established by grouping specific innovative research fields individually conducted by full-time faculty members from various organizational departments to promote their strategic development as Institute-wide organizations, aiming to build the infrastructure for international research bases at the Institute.

Japan is lagging behind global trends in drug discovery, and especially in the development of large molecule pharmaceuticals (antibody drugs), which accounts for a significant share of pharmaceutical sales in recent years, Japanese companies are in the position of falling behind foreign companies. However, there are such problems with antibody drugs as high production costs and inability to reach inside of cells. Therefore, expectations are rising for inexpensive middle molecule drugs (peptide drugs and nucleic acid drugs) that exhibit pharmaceutical efficacy comparable to that of antibody drugs. In today’s drug discovery research and development, computer science and IT have become extremely important. However, since middle molecules have unique properties that are different from conventional small molecules, and since existing R&D support systems have been developed for small molecule compounds, they cannot be applied to middle molecule drug discovery. In this initiative, we are pioneering new middle molecule simulation technologies and design methods to resolve these issues and are proceeding with their on-site applications for middle molecule drug discovery in close collaboration between researchers for computation and experiments. In addition, by combining information technology with advanced technologies for peptide and nucleic acid synthesis the Institute owns, we aim to put them into practical use in middle molecule drug discovery.

Middle molecule drug discovery will make it possible to target molecules that are difficult to target with traditional small molecule drug discovery, allowing for, among other things, the inhibition of intracellular protein-protein interactions (PPI). We are also proceeding with exhaustive PPI prediction through collaboration between calculations and experiments, and with the development of experimental identification technologies for unknown target molecules.