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Dozens of presumed inactive ingredients may impact human biology
By Levi Gadye / Wed Jul 29, 2020
Research from the UCSF School of Pharmacy and the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR) has recently found that several common excipients—inactive ingredients in drugs, like dyes and preservatives—may interact with human proteins in ways that produce unintended side effects.
The team, led by UCSF’s Brian Shoichet, PhD, and NIBR’s Laszlo Urban, PhD, used computational methods to sift through a database of thousands of excipients, seeking to identify those that were likely to bind to human proteins. They found 38 of these supposedly benign compounds that may have an undesired impact on human health.
The groups of UCSF’s Kathy Giacomini, PhD, as well as the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Bryan Roth, PhD, then validated some of these predicted interactions in the laboratory.
Shoichet is a faculty member in the School’s Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry. Giacomini is a faculty member in the Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, a joint department of the UCSF Schools of Pharmacy and Medicine, as well as the co-director of the FDA-funded UCSF-Stanford Center of Excellence in Regulatory Science and Innovation (CERSI), which provided additional support for the project.
“These data illustrate that while many excipient molecules are in fact inert, a good number may have previously unappreciated effects on human proteins known to play an important role in health and disease,” Shoichet told UCSF News. “We demonstrate an approach by which drug makers could in the future evaluate the excipients used in their formulations, and replace biologically active compounds with equivalent molecules that are truly inactive.”
About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.