Research Today, Cures Tomorrow
While peptide specialists that assist pharmaceutical companies and biotech firms often serve as research partners as well as suppliers, at least one peptide company, Peptides International, also works with academic partners to sustain long-term research projects. For example, the company’s senior chemist, Andrzej Czerwinski, Ph.D., has been working on the synthesis of numerous Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) constructs with academics such as Shuang Liu, Ph.D., a professor of health sciences at Purdue University.
As indicated by an article published in Molecular Pharmacology in 2013, this collaboration resulted in a SPECT tumor imaging RGD peptide with improved pharmacokinetic properties due to the incorporation of carbohydrate, triazole, and polyethylene glycol moieties.
In addition, the company’s president and CEO, Michael Pennington, Ph.D., is part of a research effort that in 2011 received a five-year NIH R01 grant. This effort, which involves researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine, Monash University, and the University of California, Irvine, reflects Dr. Pennington’s long-standing interest in developing selective Kv 1.3 channel blocking peptides, which are derived from disulfide-rich peptides found in sea anemones and scorpions. In March 2014, Dr. Pennington and his colleagues published an article in Scientific Reports describing the potential of a scorpion toxin analogue as a therapeutic to fight autoimmune diseases.
Yet another research area of interest to Peptides International concerns the disulfide-rich peptide hormone hepcidin. The company notes that hepcidin has been of interest as a biomarker for disorders such as anemia of inflammation and myocardial infarction.
Progress on a hepcidin synthesis strategy developed by Peptides International in collaboration with researchers from the University of Queensland and the University of California, Los Angeles was reported February 2014 in Angewandte Chemie. The researchers introduced a safety-catch cysteine protecting group, which was designed and developed to expand the capabilities of synthetic strategies for the regioselective formation of disulfide bonds in cysteine-rich peptides.
According to Peptides International, such advances reflect a breadth of experience and expertise that may be relevant to the research programs of the company’s customers. Also of interest to potential collaborators are the company’s addition of new talent and upgrades in capacity.
For example, the company reports that it now has the capacity to handle kilograms of peptide production with 4-inch and 6-inch prep columns. In addition, several HPLCs are available to purify milligram-to-gram quantities of peptides.
To accommodate increased purification volumes, the company has acquired several lyophilizers to allow freeze-drying of multiple peptides and large volumes simultaneosly. Newly acquired instrumentation to accommodate small-scale peptide synthesis is also available, as are devices that can accomplish scale-up and medium-to-large scale synthesis.