Peptide drugs are one of the fastest growing pharmaceutical subsectors with market revenues of $20B in 2014. The market is comprised of several medication for various indication. The biggest blockbuster drug is Copaxone® for the treatment of multiple sclerosis with $4.2B revenues in 2014. Other drugs include Victoza®, a long-acting glucagon-like peptide-1 receptor agonist for type 2 diabetes which obtained $2B in revenues during 2014; Byetta® which is a glucagon-like peptide-1 agonist and its longer-lasting version, Byureron® attained revenues of $0.3B and $0.4B respectively in 2014. Recently, it has been noted by large pharmaceutical companies that peptide drug candidates have an approval rate that is twice as high as “traditional” small molecules. Analysts except market growth in the upcoming years, due to the rising incidences of cancer, lifestyle diseases and generic formulation of expired patent drugs.
The increased approval rate of peptides comes from their inherent properties of high selectivity and low toxicity along with recent technological advancements that addressed their shortcomings have sparked interest in the pharmaceutical industry. Therapeutic indications for peptides are not limited to certain areas, but varies from Oncology, Metabolic and Cardiovascular disease to Infectious diseases, Gastroenterology, Allergies and Pain. Currently, the mainstay technologies for peptide discovery are “brute force” technologies (phage display and derivative thereof) which lead to a lengthy discovery process. During this time competitors are likely to emerge, lowering the overall project profitability. This has led to traditional drug discovery platform companies to increase interest in computational solutions.
The process of drug discovery and development is highly expensive and time consuming, especially the discovery of peptide. Currently used discovery methods have limited capabilities in discovering novel peptide drug candidates.
Consequently, most marketed peptide drugs are modified version or a derivative of a natural peptide and not innovative peptides.
Laboratory based techniques constitute the traditional approach for Peptide discovery. The most widely used technique in the industry is Phage Display Libraries in which, bacteriophages are transfected with DNA that expresses random peptide that may or may not bind the screened target. Other companies created more innovative methods that allow the discovery of cyclic peptides, peptides composing of non-natural amino acids and D-peptides. Nevertheless traditionally methods and the more innovative techniques for peptide discovery, are still pricey, cumbersome and do not provide 3D structure resolution and binding insight.
Pepticom was founded in 2011, based on elaborate research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HUJI), with the purpose to computationally design innovative peptide drugs. In his PhD studies at Prof. Amiram Goldblum medicinal chemistry computational lab, Dr. Amit Michaeli one of Pepticom’s founders, developed a unique algorithm to assist in protein-protein interface and peptide-protein interface design. The goal was to achieve ab initio (a model without extrinsic comparison to existing data) design of binding peptides, agonist and antagonist, intended to potentially block protein- protein or other protein-peptide interactions.
Dr. Immanuel Lerner led the platform’s first proof of concept, in which designed peptides were tested for their pharmacological effect on Toll Like Receptor 4 (TLR4). One of the computational designed peptides exhibited an exceptional inhibition activity in the lab. This successful proof of concept resulted in future initiation of two R&D collaborations in the form of bi national EUREKA projects. Consequently, constituting the groundwork for Pepticom’s foundation by Dr. Amit Michaeli and Dr. Immanuel Lerner with several of their colleagues: Prof. Amiram Goldblum and Dr. Anwar Rayan. As part of its establishment, Pepticom and YISSUM (the technology transfer company of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) signed an exclusive commercial license agreement for the use of ISE (Iterative Stochastic Elimination) for peptide design. Since, Pepticom’s computational platform was extensively developed, through the addition of new algorithms and the enhancement of peptide design capabilities.
Following Pepticom’s first seed investment in August 2013; the company augmented its pipeline projects to various disciplines as well as obtaining revenues from research projects.
Pepticom is a private company co-owned by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, seed investors and the scientific team that developed Pepticom’s unique technology.