Singapore research teams to work with Merck on peptide therapeutics


Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and a noted affiliated scientist will work with Merck ($MRK) on potential ways to help reach into cells with macrocyclic peptides, breaking down barriers to potential therapies, according to a release.

The 2-year project will involve several A*STAR entities, including the Bioinformatics Institute, Institute of Chemical and Engineering Sciences, Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology, and the p53 Laboratory, named for the discovery of p53 suppressor gene. It'll be run by noted oncology researcher David Lane.

Financial and possible intellectual property terms were not disclosed, but according to the release the ability to find "smart" methods of action for peptide cell penetration would form the building blocks for any future work.

Macrocyclics could bring formidable ability to disrupt intracellular protein-protein disease interactions, but are too large to enter cells. To see if the barrier can be overcome, about a dozen researchers from A*STAR units will build on work already underway across the labs.

Singapore has pumped billions of dollars into a biomedical complex through university coursework, basic research to clinical trials and manufacturing as it sees the sector as a key pillar of its future economy.

That formula is also seen in Japan, which earlier this year saw a macrocyclic compound advanced by Tokyo-based biotech PeptiDream. The company received an unspecified milestone payment from Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) for the work, marking a first for a collaboration started in 2010 for the University of Tokyo spinout.

In other areas, A*STAR has worked with AstraZeneca ($AZN) on research into new therapies for heart failure with preserved ejection fraction as it increasingly looks for an industry-research collaboration system to develop potential commercial scale results.

- here's the release

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