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Beer molecule discovery bolsters Seattle biotech upstart

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Scientists have delved deeply into the molecular structure of a compound found in bitter beer, notching a discovery that could aid the Seattle startup KinDex Pharmaceuticals' advance of new drugs for diabetes and other diseases.

Using good old X-ray crystallography, University of Washington chemistry professor Werner Kaminsky found previously unknown variation in the structure of humulones, a bitter acid from hops found in beer, that could have a significant impact on the use of the compound in medicines, UW's The Daily reported. The discovery centers on the two different atomic arrangements for the molecule--what chemists call handedness. 

KinDex collaborated with Kaminsky on the study as the company worked on nailing down the right structure of humulones to impact insulin sensitivity and glucose management, the newspaper reported. Founded in 2009, the little-known biotech is studying a variety of compounds for potential uses in Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardio metabolic syndrome, according to the company's website.

"The discovery of the handedness, or the absolute stereochemistry, has profound implications for the use," Brian Carroll, director of chemistry at KinDex, told The Daily. "So when you know the absolute stereochemistry, you can use that information to design new and improved compounds that may be even better in terms of their therapeutic effects."

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