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Scripps Research Institute Highlights Groundbreaking Work of aTyr Pharma Scientific Co-Founder
Date:6/8/2009

Research Published by Scripps Associate Professor Xiang-Lei Yang Further Validates aTyr Pharma's Discovery Engine for Proprietary Drugs

SAN DIEGO, June 8 /PRNewswire/ -- The June 1st, 2009 edition of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) News & Views highlights newly published research from the laboratory of Associate Professor Xiang-Lei Yang, a scientific co-founder of aTyr Pharma. Professor Yang's latest study (Chemistry & Biology, vol. 16, pp. 531-539) builds on her previous revolutionary research with an essential enzyme of protein synthesis, tyrosyl tRNA synthetase. Synthetases are fundamental components of protein synthesis machinery in all organisms, but human synthetases have hidden secrets: unrelated cell signaling activities that play key roles in balancing the complex human system. By proving that cytokine-disrupting mutations in the tyrosyl tRNA synthetase do not disturb the activity required for protein synthesis, Professor Yang's research demonstrates that human synthetases have evolved mechanisms for switching on new cell signaling activities that are normally masked in the synthetase enzymes. The novel cell signaling activities associated with the tyrosyl tRNA synthetase extends to the whole family of synthetases and is the basis of aTyr Pharma's discovery engine for developing an entirely new class of protein drugs.

According to Jeff Watkins, CEO of aTyr Pharma, "By separating specific residues in the human tyrosyl tRNA synthetase required for novel cytokine activities from those involved in the protein synthesis activities, Professor Yang has proven that these naturally occurring activities hidden in the synthetases have a role in normal human physiology. Identification of these novel cell signaling proteins that can be used to restore homeostasis in patients with inflammatory, cardiovascular and metabolic diseases is the discovery engine for aTyr Pharma's product development program and we are pleased TSRI has highlighted the significance of Professor Yang's work in this field."

Professor Paul Schimmel, a co-founder of aTyr Pharma and Professor Yang's colleague at TSRI, adds: "While the roles of aminoacyl tRNA synthetases in protein synthesis have been well studied for decades, the cell signaling activities for the naturally occurring proteins embedded in the synthetases represent a new class of proteins with therapeutic potential. The work done by Professor Yang and her group has contributed immensely to our understanding of how the genes encoding these ancient enzymes have evolved to include broader roles in regulating the systems biology of humans." An expert on tRNA synthetases, Paul Schimmel has also been the co-founder of numerous successful biotechnology companies, including Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, Alnylam, Repligen, Momenta Pharmaceuticals and Cubist Pharmaceuticals.


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