Stapled peptides 'herald a new era' for pharma

No, "stapled peptides" does not refer to a run to the office supply store for soft drinks. They are nothing less than a new superhero of the drug-delivery world because they can target diseases that were once thought to be "undruggable," according to a Harvard researcher speaking at the American Chemical Society Expo, reports Drug Discovery & Development.

"These substances represent an entirely new class of potential drugs," DD&D quotes Gregory Verdine as telling the expo. "They herald a new era in the drug-discovery world." Stapled peptides are protein fragments melded together with chemical "staples," making them stronger and more stable. The "staples" mimic the structure found at the interface of many protein-protein interactions. The end result, a peptide that will bind to its target long enough to deliver its payload of therapeutics before breaking apart. Stapled peptides are a class all by themselves, potentially reaching disease targets that other classes of drugs cannot.

Verdine described the work he and his colleagues are doing at Harvard, developing stapled peptides targeting colon cancer and asthma. The ones for colon cancer inhibit activity of a protein called beta-catenin. For asthma, he's developing stapled cytokines that help orchestrate the exchange of signals between cells, the magazine reports.

"Our new stapled peptides can overcome the shortcomings of drugs of the past and target proteins in the body that were once thought to be undruggable," Verdine is quoted as saying.

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