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Peptide therapeutics progress

Journal article on peptides co-authored by the co-founder of Accelerate Cambridge healthcare venture wins MedImmune 2017 Global Excellence Award for best publication.

Peptide therapeutics progress

A journal article on peptides co-authored by the co-founder of a healthcare technology venture mentored on the Accelerate Cambridge programme at the Cambridge Judge Business School Entrepreneurship Centre won the MedImmune 2017 Global Excellence Award for best publication of the year.

Dr Myriam Ouberai also recently received nearly £150,000 in funding from Innovate UK for her venture SPIREA, which is focused on developing a technology for targeted therapies to make drugs safer and more effective by delivering treatment only to where it’s needed. Myriam is director and co-founder of Spirea.

The Innovate UK funding for health and life sciences feeds feasibility studies for the commercial potential of innovative ideas. This award provides simultaneous grant funding and venture capital investment.

The Global Excellence Award from MedImmune recognises exceptional contributions to advance innovative science and deliver value to the MedImmune organisation, part of AstraZeneca.

Research for the award-winning paper was carried out while Myriam was working at the University of Cambridge in collaboration with MedImmune. The paper showed that a peptide called oxyntomodulin with potential to treat obesity and diabetes can be formulated as self-assembled peptide nanofibrils to prolong exposure and thus facilitate treatment – thus opening up the possibility of new ways to deliver a range of drugs.

The paper co-authored by Myriam – entitled “Controlling the bioactivity of a peptide hormone in vivo by reversible self-assembly” – was published last year in the journal Nature Communications. Peptides, molecules which are much smaller than antibodies but are comprised of the same fundamental amino acid building blocks, are developed as drugs for the treatments of many diseases including metabolic and cardiovascular diseases.

“This work has the potential to extend/improve the half-life of peptides and other protein drugs by innovatively utilising the natural properties of the molecule,” said Paul Varley, Vice President of Biopharmaceutical Development at MedImmune.

“This work is a great example of how MedImmune and the University of Cambridge can work together to deliver ground-breaking science with the potential to enable the development of medicines of the future.”

The winning journal article outlines how the use of peptides is undergoing a “renaissance” as new drugs promise higher levels of safety and efficacy – but their clinical potential will be fully realised only if certain properties are precisely controlled.

“We demonstrate a reversible peptide self-assembly strategy to control and prolong the bioactivity of a native peptide hormone in vivo,” says the paper co-authored by Myriam. “We show that oxyntomodulin, a peptide with potential to treat obesity and diabetes, self-assembles into a stable nanofibril formulation which subsequently dissociates to release active peptide and produces a pharmacological effect in vivo.”

Tested in rats, the effect of this oxyntomodulin was detectable for at least five days compared to just four hours for “free” oxyntomodulin that have not been subject to the self-assembly strategy.