Scientific imagery validates UQ-developed drug for inflammatory disease treatment

18 October 2023

UQ researchers have joined forces with international colleagues to discover and validate new drugs for inflammatory diseases such as cardiovascular disease, brain disease, or joint disease.

School of Biomedical Sciences researcher Professor Trent Woodruff said his team proposed UQ-developed drugs that were identified as being potential therapeutics to colleagues at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IIT Kanpur).

“The team used Cryo-EM to visualise important immune structures called complement receptors for the first time, Professor Woodruff said.

“Cryo-EM uses liquid nitrogen combined with electron microscopy to take a snapshot of proteins.”

IIT Kanpur researcher and co-lead author Professor Arun Shukla said the team worked with Cornelius Gati at the University of Southern California (USC).

“We obtained images of the molecular structures of several important immune receptors involved in inflammation (complement C3a and C5a receptors),” Professor Shukla said.

“These receptors have been very difficult to study in the past, so creating these models is a significant advancement.

“We examined 9 distinct receptor structures including ones bound to the UQ drugs, and identified one compound with unique properties.”

Professor Woodruff said UQ then received the results and set to work testing the validity of the findings.  

“To do this, we took samples from blood donors, isolated the immune cells and then added the compound identified by our colleagues,” Professor Woodruff said.

“The results confirmed its distinctive properties in the inflammation process, validating the results in humans.

“It was a nice way to conclude our partnership on this project, and will have a big impact on further research.

“Finding a drug that can tame inflammatory responses would be highly beneficial at treating a wide-range of diseases that affect the body and brain.

“From here, we plan to develop further versions of this compound to treat conditions such as Motor Neuron Disease.”

The study is published today in Cell (

Media: UQ researcher Professor Trent Woodruff, 33652924 or UQ Faculty of Medicine Media,, 0436368746.