Revolutionising synthetic peptide production

Biochemists at the University of Bristol have developed a revolutionary method for peptide design and production that will contribute to the availability of more effective pharmaceuticals.

BrisSynBio’s first spin-out company, Zentraxa, has developed a peptide design, production and test platform that will meet the existing, unmet needs of the vast and lucrative market for therapeutic peptides and specifically ‘Biobetters’.

The global peptide therapeutics market is expected to be worth $24 billion by 2020. The future challenges facing this industry revolve around developing tractable routes to producing increasingly complex peptides, increasing peptide synthesis capability, and a requirement for new tools that facilitate access to biosuperior peptide pharmaceuticals with improved efficacy and pharmacodynamics.

The science

Zentraxa uses the power of engineering biology to make peptides which are too difficult or expensive to produce using existing technologies. The patented bacterial platform introduces modifications in the peptide sequence and circumvents some of the limitations of existing synthetic chemical and competing biological methods. This enables rapid turnaround of new peptide designs as well as cost effective scale-up. Crucially it also offers the opportunity to discover previously inaccessible biosuperiors.

Zentraxa has to date demonstrated their biosimiliar capabilities with Teriparatide and Zadaxin - drugs used primarily to treat Osteoporosis and Hepatitis B respectively. They leveraged this experience to design, build and test ‘bio-superiors’, drugs which possess improved pharmacological properties, higher activity, reduced side effects and lower immunogenicity than the originator drugs they seek to improve upon.

Their work has already seen them forge links with the expansive and lucrative pharmaceuticals market and their two year funding from the University of Bristol will see them continue to develop their technology platform, supported by state-of-the-art facilities, expertise and research.

Next steps

They are working to develop their platform further by incorporating non-natural amino acid capability, further improving the stability and pharmacokinetics of the bio-superiors.

The science explained

Biobetters and biosuperiors

Biobetters and biosuperiors are based on existing drugs but are not identical to them. They improve upon the original and can in some cases be more effective whilst offering fewer side effects. They are also considered less of a commercial risk than developing a brand new drug.

Biosimilars

Officially approved, almost identical versions, of original "innovator" products, and can be manufactured when the original product's patent expires.

Peptides

Similar in structure to proteins, peptides are made up of chains of amino acids that are held together by peptide bonds.

Further information

The key advantages Zentraxa’s technology has over other chemical and biological solutions are:

  • an ability to design-for-manufacture a broad range of challenging to make peptides including long peptides - containing more than 20 amino acids - and hydrophobic peptides;

  • the process lends itself to rapid prototyping and efficient scale-up;

  • lower production costs with higher efficiency of synthesis;

  • the elimination of environmentally-hazardous chemicals.
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