Peptides for the treatment of severe diseases

April 15, 2013 by Cécilia Carron, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne
A bicyclic peptide (in green and red) bound to a protein. Credit: 2013 LPPT

A new class of drugs for the treatment of severe diseases such as cancer and autoimmune diseases is developed by the start-up Bicycle Therapeutics. The company is generating bicyclic peptides that can selectively bind disease-related proteins and to modulate their function without affecting other proteins in the body.

Over the past fifteen years, new molecules known as have proven to be particularly effective in the treatment of certain types of cancer and such as . They also represent nearly half of the ten drugs that generated the largest revenues in 2012. But their relatively large size both prevents their effective dissemination in some tissues and requires administration by injection. In addition, they cannot be chemically synthesized, which, for the pharmaceutical industry, complicates their manufacturing. Bicycle Therapeutics is developing a new class of therapeutic agents approximately 100 times smaller. These molecules, termed bicyclic peptides, have similar binding qualities as monoclonal antibodies without sharing their limitations. Based in Cambridge, this start-up operates under a license from EPFL.

Bicyclic peptides are named as such because they contain two loops of . They can uniquely bind to almost any and act on the target while leaving healthy cells intact. For example, they can connect to proteins of a tumor cell and inhibit its growth without affecting the surrounding tissues. The therapeutic agents are isolated from large combinatorial libraries of bicyclic peptides using a technique called phage display.

Christian Heinis, currently a professor at EPFL, got the idea during his post-doc at the MRC (Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK). He sought to develop a molecular structure similar to that of the antibody that is capable of binding the , but much smaller, allowing efficient tissue distribution and production by chemical synthesis. This new molecular structure would also be compatible with techniques leading to the identification of structures that specifically bind the target proteins.

The researcher, in collaboration with Sir Greg Winter, has developed a technique to isolate bicyclic peptides that effectively bind a range of clinically relevant targets. Currently, Heinis is pursuing his research at EPFL's Laboratory of Therapeutic Proteins and Peptides (LPPT). His research group has recently demonstrated how bicyclic peptides bind to their targets. In addition to his work at EPFL, Heinis serves as a scientific consultant for Bicycle Therapeutics.

In late 2012, the company successfully raised 5.5 million francs to finance the pursuit of candidate molecules for various treatments and to assess their therapeutic potential.

Explore further: New monoclonal antibody developed that can target proteins inside cancer cells

Related Stories

New monoclonal antibody developed that can target proteins inside cancer cells

March 13, 2013
Researchers have discovered a unique monoclonal antibody that can effectively reach inside a cancer cell, a key goal for these important anticancer agents, since most proteins that cause cancer or are associated with cancer ...

ASU bioengineer makes key contribution to cancer treatment research

December 17, 2012
Michael Caplan shares authorship of a paper on cancer treatment research published this week in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.

Recommended for you

Bioengineered soft microfibers improve T-cell production

January 18, 2018
T cells play a key role in the body's immune response against pathogens. As a new class of therapeutic approaches, T cells are being harnessed to fight cancer, promising more precise, longer-lasting mitigation than traditional, ...

Weight flux alters molecular profile, study finds

January 17, 2018
The human body undergoes dramatic changes during even short periods of weight gain and loss, according to a study led by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Secrets of longevity protein revealed in new study

January 17, 2018
Named after the Greek goddess who spun the thread of life, Klotho proteins play an important role in the regulation of longevity and metabolism. In a recent Yale-led study, researchers revealed the three-dimensional structure ...

The HLF gene protects blood stem cells by maintaining them in a resting state

January 17, 2018
The HLF gene is necessary for maintaining blood stem cells in a resting state, which is crucial for ensuring normal blood production. This has been shown by a new research study from Lund University in Sweden published in ...

Magnetically applied MicroRNAs could one day help relieve constipation

January 17, 2018
Constipation is an underestimated and debilitating medical issue related to the opioid epidemic. As a growing concern, researchers look to new tools to help patients with this side effect of opioid use and aging.

Researchers devise decoy molecule to block pain where it starts

January 16, 2018
For anyone who has accidentally injured themselves, Dr. Zachary Campbell not only sympathizes, he's developing new ways to blunt pain.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.